After a single application, a total of seven chemicals commonly found in sunscreens can be absorbed into the bloodstream at levels that exceed safety thresholds, according to studies by the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, an arm of the US Food and Drug Administration.
“What is most alarming about these findings is that chemicals are absorbing into the body in significant amounts and the ingredients have not been fully tested for safety,” said David Andrews, a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group, or EWG, a consumer organization which advocates for sunscreen safety.
“If companies want to keep these ingredients in products, they need to urgently test for potential harm to children and harm from long-term use,” Andrews added.
The fact that an ingredient is absorbed through the skin and into the body doesn’t mean that particular ingredient is unsafe, said Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, the arm of the FDA which conducted the studies.
“Rather, this finding calls for further industry testing to determine the safety and effect of systemic exposure of sunscreen ingredients, especially with chronic use,” Woodcock said.
Experts and the FDA stress the sun’s link to cancer and aging is real, so don’t abandon sun protection. Suggestions include long-sleeved clothing, hats, sunglasses and staying in the shade. If chemical sunscreens worry you, consider mineral-based sunscreens, which the FDA has determined are generally considered safe and effective.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends applying at least 1 ounce of sunscreen to all exposed skin every two hours or after swimming, including “back, neck, face, ears, tops of your feet and legs.”