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Can A Sunscreen Ever Harm You?

Sun protection is essential for health, especially during the sunny summer months. But many people aren’t so enthusiastic about some widely available sunblock options. Why? Some research indicates that one or more of the chemicals found in many common sunscreens may act as “hormone disruptors” in the body. Hormone disruptors influence all processes in our body that rely on hormones: our blood pressure, thyroid function, and more. However, sunscreen is one of the best ways to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. Learn more about the two basic types of sunscreens so you can make the most informed choice when choosing the best one for your family.

What Chemicals Are in Common Sunscreens, and How Do They Work?

There are two kinds of sunscreen on the market today: chemical and mineral. Chemical sunscreens work by producing a reaction on your skin that blocks UV rays, while mineral sunscreens are “physical blockers” that scatter and deflect the sun’s rays.

One compound found in chemical sunscreens called 4-MBC is considered a possible “endocrine disruptor,” or hormone disruptor. Hormone disruption impacts any biological processes that rely on hormones, like pregnancies and birth outcomes. Hormone disruption can lead to developmental issues, birth defects and even tumors. Though more research needs to be done, there is evidence that oxybenzone can also lead to allergic skin reactions in some people. But today, chemical sunscreens are still approved by the FDA; and that means more research is needed to solidify a proven link.

If you’re concerned about the ingredients in chemical sunscreen, a mineral sunscreen might be an option for you. The tiny particles of titanium dioxide or zinc in mineral sunscreens physically scatter UV rays, as opposed to causing a chemical reaction to block them. Other ingredients to look out for in chemical sunscreen include octinoxate—whose chemical effects on estrogen have the potential to be harmful for humans and wildlife—and homosalate, which accumulates in the body faster than we can expel it and may become toxic. Paying attention to both active and inactive ingredients in your sunscreen choice can help you research the best product for your lifestyle.

Mineral vs. Chemical Sunscreens

Remember: it’s never a good idea to spend time in the sun without plenty of protection. Scratching your head over choosing a best sunscreen for you? Some people prefer mineral sunscreen choices that include those with zinc oxide and with an SPF of 30 or above.

Mineral sunscreens use components found directly in the earth like titanium dioxide and zinc that deflect UV rays, and that makes some people more comfortable with them. In fact, some may be tempted make their own sunscreens in order to control the ingredients used on their skin — but this is not advised. Making your own sunscreen is a slippery slope. Without 100% accurate formulation, your coverage will be compromised and spotty, which is dangerous for your skin.

Always remember that despite the heat, you can also protect your skin through hats, long sleeves, and other coverings to prevent sunburn no matter what type of sunscreen you choose.

Know What You Put on Your Skin

The bottom line: be educated about what you’re putting on your skin, and make the best choice for you. Always use some form of sunscreen or sunblock before spending long periods in the sun. Also stay out of the sun during peak periods of sunshine, usually between noon and three pm. Want to learn more? Contact a CareSpot healthcare professional to understand more about sunscreen, skin allergies and signs of skin cancer.