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Sunscreen ingredients are absorbed into your blood – here’s what that could mean

June 28, 2019 Lifestyle No Comments Email Email

Growing concerns about the chemicals used in sunscreen and the impact on the health of people and the planet is causing Aussies to question what’s going into their sunscreen.

A new FDA study has found that sunscreen chemicals reach our bloodstream, but the health risks are unclear.

Researchers at the Food and Drug Administration have found that people who regularly use certain sunscreens may be absorbing higher than safe levels of active ingredients into their bodies. But the scientists caution that it’s still unclear whether these products could be posing health risks and recommend that people continue to use sunscreen.

The JAMA study asked 24 people to wear different formulation of commercially available sunscreens for just four days. Throughout the study period, the researchers took blood samples from the participants to look for four common active ingredients used in different combinations in sunscreens: avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene and ecamsule.

The two main classes of sunscreen are sunscreens based on UV filters that can be absorbed into the body, as in the study above. The second class uses a physical barrier like zinc or clear zinc to form a physical barrier that sits on top of the skin reflecting away UV radiation. This type of sunscreen is usually not absorbed into the bloodstream.

With concerns about skin cancer, manufacturers have started encouraging people to apply sunscreen more frequently, resulting in more active ingredients being absorbed through the skin.

Australia skincare company MooGoo uses zinc-based sunscreen only. Its founder Craig Jones spent four years developing a natural zinc-based sunscreen that doesn’t need the penetration enhancers and UV filters in most sunscreens. Instead it uses a physical barrier based on clear Zinc to reflect UV radiation.

“There’s never been a more important time to really educate ourselves on what is in the sunscreens we so heavily rely on,” he says.

“Many people seem to assume that SPF is the only important thing when choosing a sunscreen and don’t tend to be concerned with what it’s made of.”

Craig says it is essential that consumers know every ingredient in their sunscreen, especially given it is necessary to apply and reapply sunscreen all over the body.

“Unfortunately, in Australia, most sunscreen ingredients are not shown on the label,” he explains. “So it can be a matter of calling the manufacturer for a complete list of what is in your product.”

“Not showing all ingredients on products is a public health hazard at a time when so many people have allergies,” he says. “There is simply no reason not to disclose ingredients.”

There are also environmental concerns over sunscreen actives, including reef safety. A number of US states, including Hawaii, and the Pacific Islands have banned some sunscreen ingredients such as oxybenzone.

“A single drop in six Olympic sized swimming pools worth of water contains enough oxybenzone to begin disrupting coral growth,” adds Craig. “It’s extremely worrying.”

Ingredients – MooGoo Skin Care Natural Sunscreen SPF 40 (AustL 229979): Aqua (H₂O’s fancy name), zinc oxide (for sun protection), coco caprylate (coconut-based conditioner), simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) seed oil, sorbitan olivate (olive-based emulsifier), glycerin (sugar alcohol), lecithin (soy), cera alba (beeswax), polyglyceryl-2 dipolyhydroxyystearate (emulsifier), galactoarabinan (emulsifier), polyglyceryl-3 polyricinoleate (emulsifier), polyhydroxystearic acid (emulsifier), 1,2-hexanediol (moisturiser), caprylyl glycol (skin conditioner), tropolone (skin soother), cetyl phosphate (emulsifier), sodium chloride (salt), oleic acid (emulsifier)

*Between 2009 and 2019 the number of new invasive melanoma cases diagnosed annually increased by 54 percent. An estimated 7,230 people will die of melanoma in 2019. Of those, 4,740 will be men and 2,490 will be women. The vast majority of melanomas are caused by the sun.

** These results do not indicate that individuals should refrain from the use of this type of sunscreen but recommends further tests.

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