Summer Cookout – Sunscreens

As the weather heats up for many of us and we begin to spend time outside at summer cookouts (as social distancing allows), we’re taking a fresh look at a few ingredients that make summer cookouts safe and fun. In this post, we’ll explore sunscreens.

What are the different types of sunscreens?

Sunscreen products help protect our skin from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays. There are two types of sun rays UVA and UVB that are known to damage skin and can cause skin cancers over time.
To combat the sun exposure, scientists developed lotions, sprays, oils, creams, gels, butters, pastes, ointments, and sticks that containSubscribe for weekly updates_ active ingredients that can help protect our skin from the damaging UVA and UVB rays.
Two types of active ingredients can provide broad-spectrum sunscreen coverage:

  • Mineral-based sunscreen.
  • Synthetic-based sunscreens.

What are the active ingredients found in sunscreens?

Mineral-based sunscreens use titanium dioxidezinc oxide, or these ingredients in combination to provide sun protection.
Synthetic-based sunscreen use cinoxate, dioxybenzone, ensulizole, homosalate, meradimate, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, padimate O, sulisobenzone, oxybenzone, avobenzone, or some combination of these ingredients to provide sun protection. 

Are sunscreens regulated?

Yes, sunscreens are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure they meet safety and efficacy standards.

How are mineral-based sunscreens different than a synthetically-derived sunscreen?

While both mineral and synthetically-derived sunscreens provide sun protection, our bodies absorb and process them differently.
As we’ve discussed in prior posts, our skin is an exposure route. While our skin generally serves as a barrier to prevent the entry of harmful pathogens and chemicals, it can sometimes absorb and process topically applied ingredients.
Mineral-based sunscreens contain active ingredients that researchers have repeatedly studied. Based on the scientific consensus, researchers determined they do not pose harm to human health. So mineral-based sunscreens received the designation as generally recognized as safe and effective (GRASE), when used as intended, and do not require any further safety evaluations (1,2).
Our skin can absorb some of the synthetically-derived sunscreen ingredients, and these ingredients can make their way throughout our bodies. Research shows some of the active ingredients can be found in our bloodstream.

Since there is no scientific consensus on these ingredients, scientists are researching what if any impact this has on our health before issuing a final safety determination.

Are they safe?

While research is underway around synthetic-based sunscreens, the FDA still recommends people use sunscreens that contain these synthetic active ingredients in conjunction with other sun-protective practices to protect our skin.
As we’ve discussed in prior posts, the presence of a chemical doesn’t necessarily mean it’s causing harm or that our bodies cannot effectively process and eliminate the ingredients. We do know that without sunscreen, we can cause severe damage to our skin that can lead to burns and over time potentially skin cancer.
Mineral-based sunscreen is considered safe by the FDA and is known to provide robust sun protection without any known side effects.

The good news.

While we’re still learning more about the active ingredients in sunscreen, we do know that there are many safe options for sun protection. By learning more about these ingredients, scientists can continue to develop new and better products to protect us from damaging sun rays


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