Important Things You Should Know About Sunscreen
By Paul Rothbart
When summer comes, the sun rises high. Outdoor activities abound. Protection from the sun is of the utmost importance as UV rays can be quite damaging to the skin. Many brands of sunscreen are available and do the job effectively. However, caution must be taken when choosing sunscreen. Research has found that some sunscreen contains potentially dangerous chemicals. Here are some important things to consider when choosing sun protection.
Potentially Dangerous Chemicals
The FDA has discovered that chemicals commonly found in sunscreen can be absorbed into the bloodstream at levels higher than the accepted safety threshold. The chemicals oxybenzone and homosalate remained in the bloodstreams of test subjects 21 days after application of sunscreen. This does not mean these products are unsafe, but that the FDA has asked the manufacturers to conduct further research. The FDA has been requesting this research for years in order to certify these products as GRASE (generally recognized as safe and effective). Research has linked oxybenzone to reduced testosterone levels in young men and teen boys. It has also been connected to shorter pregnancies and low birth weight.
Misleading Protection Claims
When choosing sun protection people look at the SPF number. The higher the number, the better the protection. According to the FDA, this is not necessarily the case. For example, an SPF of 100 does not offer more protection than one rated 60. There is no reliable data to show that sunscreens are able to protect past an SPF of 60. The Environmental Working Group recommends avoiding sunscreens that claim an SPF of higher than 50. Additionally, SPF is only a measure of how well a product protects against UVB rays. UVA rays penetrate deeper and cause more damage to skin. Dermatologists recommend broad spectrum sunscreens which protect against both kinds of rays.
A good alternative for those who are worried about chemicals being absorbed into their skin are sunscreens made with minerals such as titanium oxide and zinc oxide. Unlike chemical-based sunscreens, those containing minerals have been rated as safe and effective by the FDA. Minerals physically deflect the sun's rays rather than absorbing and releasing them as chemicals do. This is a much safer process.
Use caution when choosing sunscreen. Your favorite brand is not necessarily unsafe, but read labels and be aware of the content of potentially dangerous chemicals. Be mindful of super-high SPF ratings and claim of effectiveness. A little research will go a long way. Mineral sunscreens are available if you don't feel safe with chemicals. Enjoy the sun without damaging your skin.
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