Using sunscreen in summer? Be Careful!

Why people use sunscreens ?

  • To prevent sunburn
  • Decrease signs of aging on the skin
  • Lower risk of developing skin cancer

Types of Sunscreens

Chemical sunscreens: They contain one or more of the following ingredients: Oxybensone, avobenzone, Octisalate, Octocrylene, homosalate, octinoxate. These sunscreens are easier to rub on the skin without leaving a white residue.

Physical sunscreens (also known as mineral sunscreens): They contain active ingredients like titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or both. These sunscreens act as a shield. Sitting on the surface of your skin, they deflect the sun’s rays.

But there could be risks involved:

Studies show chemicals used in sunscreens may enter blood stream on regular and excessive use beyond the permissble limit of 0.5ng/mL.

While the health impact of toxicity caused by this is yet to be proven, scientists fear potential risks; for example, endocrine disorders and cancer.

This question has been bothering many ever since reports appeared in global media suggesting that chemicals used in most commercially available sunscreen can enter the bloodstream on regular usage.

Skin specialists say the study published in Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) didn’t detail the health effects of such consequences.

Indian skin is less sensitive to sun rays compared with the skin of white people living abroad. Only 10% to 15% of users actually need sunscreen People in India use sunscreen to look fairer. It has become a trend.

Sunscreen products are usually sold over-the-counter. They are considered harmless. But the JAMA study showed the amount of chemical reaching the bloodstream is multiple times the level permitted by US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Sunscreens are of two main variations: chemical sunscreens and physical sunscreens, also known as mineral sunscreens. Doctors’ suggests the use of physical sunscreens d using physical blockers instead of chemical-based ones.

The study published in JAMA involved 24 volunteers. They applied four commercially available sunscreens, including sprays, lotion and cream, to 75% of the body four times a day over four days. Blood tests were conducted to determine the maximum levels of certain chemicals absorbed into their bloodstream over seven days.

Use of Sunscreen

Scientists found maximum plasma levels of the chemicals it tested for — avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene and in one sunscreen, ecamsule — to be well above the level of 0.5 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) at which FDA guidelines call for further safety testing.

For example, the maximum concentration of avobenzone was found to be 4 ng/mL and 3.4 ng/mL for two different sprays, 4.3 ng/mL for a lotion and 1.8 ng/mL for the cream.

The effects of plasma concentrations exceeding the FDA’s limit is not known and needs to be further studied, according to the research team. The results in no way suggest that people should stop using sunscreen to protect themselves against the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, researchers have stated in an editorial accompanying the JAMA study.

The demonstration of systemic absorption well above the FDA guideline does not mean these ingredients are unsafe. The study findings raise many important questions about sunscreen and the process by which the sunscreen industry, clinicians, specialty organisations, and regulatory agencies evaluate the benefits and risks of this topical OTC medication.