donation
To request Mental Health
Services or to access Mental
Health Crisis Services Call:
1-800-375-4357

Wellness and Personal Development
Resources
Basic InformationLatest News
'Couch Potato' Lifestyle Poses Danger to Women's Hearts5 Secrets to an Allergy-Free Valentine's DayRestful Romance: Smelling Your Lover's Shirt Can Help You SleepHow Does Social Media Shape Your Food Choices?AHA News: How a Happy Relationship Can Help Your HealthTexting While Walking Is Risky BusinessShovel That Snow, but Spare Your BackSpring Time Change Tied to More Fatal Car CrashesHealth Tip: Healthy Ways to Deal With SadnessEating Out: A Recipe for Poor Nutrition, Study FindsHealthy Living Helps Keep the Flu at BayNew Clues Show How Stress May Turn Your Hair GrayHealth Tip: Warning Signs of Drowsy DrivingAHA News: Can Social Media Be Good for Your Health?Sunscreen Chemicals Absorbed Into Body, Study FindsCould a Switch to Skim Milk Add Years to Your Life?Many Americans Are Inactive, With Southerners Faring WorseWhy Tidying Up Is Sometimes Harder Than ExpectedProbiotics: Don't Buy the Online HypePot-Using Drivers Still Impaired After the High Fades'Burnout' Could Raise Your Odds for A-fibHealth Tip: Healthier Ways to Use Social MediaMany Americans Sleep More in WinterProcessed Foods Are Making Americans ObeseSo Long, 98.6: Average Human Body Temperature Is DroppingHow Does Missed Sleep Affect Your Appetite?New Year's Resolutions Didn't Stick? Try a Monday ResetHealth Tip: Is Worrying Out of Control?Tips to Keep New Year's ResolutionsAHA News: Get Started on the Path to Better Health in the New YearYoga May Bring a Brain Boost, Review ShowsSome Solid Advice on New Year's Resolutions That Might StickFestive Foods Can Leave Those on Restricted Diets Out in the ColdGet Ready for the Sleepiest Day of the YearYour TV, Smartphone Screens May Send Toxins Into Your HomeHealth Tip: Resolutions for a Healthier New YearDo Your Heart a Favor: Bike, Walk to WorkRegular Exercise Cuts Odds for 7 Major CancersHow to Stay Fit When You're Traveling for Work or FunDespite Danger, Tanning Beds Still a Fixture in Many GymsAHA News: Are You Drinking Enough During Winter Months?Unhealthy Eating Habits Cost U.S. $50 Billion a Year: StudyHeart Risks in Your Genes? Be Sure to Get Your ZzzsAHA News: How to Enjoy the Flavors of the Season Without Derailing HealthSlow Down and Enjoy a Safe ChristmasHealth Tip: Waking Up Without CaffeineAHA News: Cold Heart Facts: Why You Need to Watch Out in WinterHave a Purpose, Have a Healthier LifeAn 'Epidemic of Loneliness' in America? Maybe NotHealth Tip: The Importance of Hydration
LinksBook Reviews
Related Topics

Smoking
Anger Management
Stress Reduction and Management
Weight Loss

Sunscreen Chemicals Absorbed Into Body, Study Finds

HealthDay News
by By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter
Updated: Jan 21st 2020

new article illustration

TUESDAY, Jan. 21, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- The chemicals in sunscreens help shield people from the sun's rays, but they are also absorbed into the body at levels that raise some safety questions, a new study confirms.

The study, by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is a follow-up to a 2019 investigation. Both reached the same conclusion: The active ingredients in popular sunscreens can be absorbed into the blood at levels that exceed the FDA threshold where they can be presumed safe.

However, both the agency and skin cancer experts were quick to stress that there is no proof that sunscreen ingredients cause any harm. And people should keep using the products to prevent sunburn and curb the risk of skin cancer, they said.

"The fact that an ingredient is absorbed through the skin and into the body does not mean the ingredient is unsafe," said Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "Rather, this finding calls for further industry testing to determine the safety and effect of systemic exposure of sunscreen ingredients, especially with chronic use."

Last year, FDA researchers reported on a study of four active ingredients in widely used sunscreen lotions and sprays. That study found that all four were absorbed into study volunteers' bloodstreams, at concentrations that far surpassed 0.5 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL).

That's the FDA-set threshold for waiving additional safety testing.

The new study tested three more active ingredients, along with three additional sunscreen formulations. Again, all tested chemicals were absorbed into volunteers' bloodstreams at levels exceeding the safety-testing mark.

"Sunscreen chemicals, like all over-the-counter medications, only undergo safety testing if they are shown to be systemically absorbed above the FDA safety threshold level," said Dr. Kanade Shinkai, a dermatologist at the University of California, San Francisco.

The two FDA studies are the first to "clearly demonstrate" absorption of common sunscreen ingredients, Shinkai said.

"Whether this is dangerous is still not known," she stressed. "But this highlights the need for safety testing."

Shinkai co-wrote an editorial published with the findings Jan. 21 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The active ingredients in most sunscreens include chemicals like avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, and ecamsule. They work by absorbing UV radiation from the sun and converting it into a small amount of heat.

There's no proof those chemicals harm human health. But, the FDA says, animal research has raised questions about whether some -- oxybenzone, in particular -- can disrupt hormone activity.

This latest study involved 48 healthy people who were randomly assigned to use one of four sunscreen sprays or lotions. The participants applied the products, over most of the body, once on day one, and then four times per day for the next three days.

In most participants, the study found, active ingredients were absorbed at levels beyond the FDA threshold after a single application.

And they often lingered in the body: In more than half of volunteers, levels of avobenzone, octisalate and octinoxate remained elevated for up to seven days, while homosalate and oxybenzone remained above-threshold for as long as 21 days.

However, even levels that exceed the FDA mark are very low, said Dr. Adam Friedman, a member of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) and professor at George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

"We're talking about nanograms," Friedman said. (A nanogram is one-billionth of a gram.) "All this study shows is that it's possible to detect very tiny amounts of sunscreen ingredients in the blood. It was not designed to say anything about safety."

One limitation of the study, the FDA noted, is the artificial lab conditions: In real life, people wear sunscreen outdoors, where they are exposed to heat and sunlight, which might affect absorption.

What is clear is that sunscreens can reduce skin cancer risk, said AAD president Dr. George Hruza.

In a written response to the study, he laid out some advice: "The AAD recommends that everyone seek shade, wear protective clothing -- including a lightweight and long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses -- and apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all exposed skin."

For people who want to avoid chemical-based sunscreens, Shinkai pointed to an alternative: mineral sunscreens, which contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These sit on the skin surface and act as a shield.

"[They] have been tested for systemic absorption and are not absorbed," she said.

More information

The FDA has more on sunscreens.