Last week I needed to bring home a sunscreen that was safe for my kids, and our daycare wouldn’t allow aerosols, so I wanted to look into it and here is what I found as a pharmacist and as a parent.

Stick to Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide

Researchers at the Food and Drug Administration recently found that four of the most common active ingredients in sunscreens can be absorbed through the skin and appear in the blood. The health impacts are unclear, but it’s concerning enough that the agency has requested more research on the effects of sunscreen ingredients.

The FDA is finalizing new regulations for evaluating the safety of sunscreens, and it found that only two ingredients, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are generally safe and effective. Two others, PABA and trolamine salicylate, have been linked to adverse health effects and are unsafe, while 12 have not been studied enough for the agency to say anything about their safety.

The FDA is expected to request more studies on these 12 ingredients, but until its final report is submitted later this year, the Environmental Working Group’s annual list of “best” sunscreens can be useful in sunscreen shopping; it relies on similar criteria as the FDA.

Sunscreens Don’t Prevent Skin Cancer

People who rely on sunscreens tend to burn, and we have seen that sunburns are linked to cancer. The CDC has reported that the percentage of American adults who say they have gotten sunburned has increased since 2005 (CDC 2012).

Scientists don’t know for certain whether sunscreen can help prevent melanoma. A 2011 study of sun-savvy Australians found that they cut their risk of melanoma in half by age 50 when they applied SPF 15 sunscreen daily, wore hats and avoided the sun in other ways (Green 2011). Additional studies indicate that sunscreens protect against melanoma (Autier 1995, Green 2010, Westerdahl 2000, Wolf 1994). Other studies have not reached such clear conclusions. Some suggest that sunscreen users are at increased risk of melanoma (Gorham 2007). A number of studies conducted in the 1990s reported higher incidences of melanoma among frequent sunscreen users (Autier 1998, Beitner 1990, Westerdahl 2000, Wolf 1998).

Stanford University dermatologists who reviewed CDC national survey data concluded that people who relied solely on sunscreens for sun protection got more sunburns than people who reported infrequent sunscreen use but wore hats and clothing to shield themselves from the sun (Linos 2011). In Sweden, increased use of sunscreen by children was linked to more sunburns (Rodvall 2010). Several other studies of real-world sunscreen use found that people who use sunscreen for skin protection during periods of intense UV exposure had more sunburns (Koster 2010, Autier 2007).

Avoiding Oxybenzone Especially For Kids

Oxybenzone is one of the most commonly used sunscreen active ingredients, found in more than 60 percent of the non-mineral sunscreens in this year’s Guide.The FDA’s has created a proposal saying that although oxybenzone is one of the more thoroughly tested sunscreen ingredients, additional data is needed because existing tests raise health concerns. Of particular concern to the FDA were test results showing:

  • Oxybenzone is allergenic.
  • It is absorbed through the skin in large amounts.
  • It has been detected in human breast milk, amniotic fluid, urine and blood.
  • It is a potential endocrine disruptor.
  • Children may be more vulnerable to harm from oxybenzone than adults “because of the potential for higher absorption and bioaccumulation.”
  • The agency is requesting studies of oxybenzone that measure skin absorption and potential impacts on the hormone levels, reproduction and development.

I found really interesting articles on sunscreens here.

What I found is that Goddess Garden, Blue Lizard, And Aveeno’s Baby Products contain Zinc and Titanium.  We have built our line up of sunscreens in the pharmacy based around these principles. Follow our blog on how we are changing our entire line up of front end products with healthy sales in mind.


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