Is Sunscreen Safe? Here's the Truth
You hardly have to be a skin care enthusiast to know the importance of sunscreen. It’s sitting on the shelves at nearly every drugstore and beauty depot, and it’s very likely that you’ve lost count of the number of times your dermatologist has urged you to apply (and reapply) it daily to help protect your skin against harmful UV rays that can cause premature signs of aging and even some cancers. If there were to be one skin care product that is held in the highest regard by experts, we’d argue that sunscreen would be it. It’s simply the most important step in any skin care routine…right?
Recently, a different narrative has been floating around the beauty sphere about sunscreen—one that paints a not-so-pretty picture about a product we’ve all grown to love and appreciate. Instead of being praised for its ability to protect, some are claiming that popular ingredients and chemicals found in many sunscreens can actually increase your risk of developing melanoma. It’s a shocking claim, especially since sunscreen is a product we all use so regularly. Not surprisingly, we set out to get to the bottom of the “does sunscreen cause cancer” debate. Keep reading to find out if sunscreen is safe!
IS SUNSCREEN SAFE?
To think, even for one second, that sunscreen can cause cancer or increase your risk of developing cancer is terribly frightening. The good news is you shouldn’t fall for it; sunscreen is safe! There have been countless studies conducted that prove that sunscreen use can reduce the incidence of melanoma, and that when used as directed along with other sun protection measures, broad-spectrum sunscreen can help prevent sunburn, reduce the appearance of premature signs of skin aging—think: wrinkles, fine lines, and dark spots—and skin cancer associated with UV radiation.
What studies do not show, on the other hand, is any indication that sunscreen use increases melanoma risk. In fact, a study published in 2002 found no association between sunscreen use and the development of malignant melanoma. Another study published in 2003 found the same results. Without the hard science to back it up, these accusations are just a myth.
SUNSCREEN INGREDIENTS IN QUESTION
Since much of the hubbub around sunscreen’s safety revolves around a few popular ingredients, it’s important to point out that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates sunscreens and the acting ingredients/sun filters in them.
Oxybenzone is an ingredient that many people are calling into question, however the FDA approved the ingredient in 1978 and there is no reported data that oxybenzone causes hormonal shifts in humans, or any significant health problems according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Another ingredient many people are talking about is retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A naturally found in the skin, which can help reduce the signs of premature aging. According to the AAD, there are no study that shows retinyl palmitate increases the risk of skin cancer in humans.
Long story short, this is not the end of sunscreen. The beloved skin care product still deserves its rightful spot at the forefront of your daily skin care routine, and the hubbub about sunscreen causing cancer is unsubstantiated by science. For the best line of protection, the AAD recommends reaching for a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 or greater. To reduce your risk of sun damage and certain skin cancers even further, wear protective clothing when outdoors and seek shade.