The chemicals in sunscreen don’t just sit there on top of your skin, they actually absorb into your bloodstream, according to new research from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Published Monday in the peer-reviewed medical journal JAMA, a new report found that several active ingredients in sunscreens enter the bloodstream at levels that far exceed the FDA’s recommended limits without a government safety inspection.
In the case of Oxybenzone, for instance, a chemical that has been found along with other sunscreen ingredients in breast milk, plasma concentrations reached the threshold within two hours after a single application and exceeded 20 ng/mL by day 7 of the study.
“However, sunscreens have not been subjected to standard drug safety testing, and clinicians and consumers lack data on systemic drug levels despite decades of widespread use,” former FDA chairman Robert Califf and JAMA Dermatology Editor in Chief Kanade Shinkai wrote in a release about the study.
It should be noted the study was small. The 24 participants were told to apply one of four different kinds of sunscreen spray, lotion or cream four times per day for four days on any and all areas that wouldn’t be covered by a swimsuit.
FDA officials are stressing that this news is not cause for panic. Just because they seep through the skin, does not mean the chemicals are dangerous, but it does mean that the health effects need to be studied.
“Just because they are absorbed doesn’t mean they are unsafe,” study coauthor Theresa Michele, director of the division of nonprescription drug products at the FDA, told NBC News. “That’s why we are asking for additional data.”
Despite the concerns over chemicals, the FDA recommends applying sunscreen of SPF 15 or more every two hours, even on cloudy days; limiting your time in the sun especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s rays are most intense; and wearing clothing that covers skin that may be exposed to the sun, such as long sleeves and wide-brimmed hats. Swimshirts are another good choice. Going with a more old-fashioned zinc-based sunscreen may also prevent absorption, as Harvard researchers have noted.
There were nearly 300,000 new cases of melanoma in 2018, making it is the 19th most commonly occurring cancer in men and women, according to the World Cancer Research Fund.
Chemicals in sunscreen seep into your bloodstream, warns FDA