What You Must Know About the Chemicals in Your Sunscreen

Don't be overwhelmed by sunscreen options.

The answer: No. In fact, the skin experts Health talked to were adamant that we should be more worried about shielding our skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays than about the chemical makeup of the products we’re using to do that.

“Five million Americans are treated for skin cancer each year, and an estimated 9,940 people will die of melanoma”—the deadliest type of skin cancer—”in 2015,” Steven Wang, MD, head of dermatological surgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering Basking Ridge in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, told Health. “The biggest precaution that you should be taking is using sunscreen. There is enough research at this point from various credible bodies that say sunscreens are safe and, when used appropriately, will reduce skin cancer.”

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Why you might have heard that sunscreen could be dangerousSo, where are people getting the idea that the chemicals in certain sunscreens are potentially hazardous?

Most recently in regards to sunscreen, a report this year from the Environmental Working Group (a non-profit advocacy organization) once again made reference to “worrisome ingredients like oxybenzone and Vitamin A” commonly found in these protective products.

But the thing is, the actual research on the effects of these “worrisome” ingredients in sunscreen may have been blown out of proportion.Take this 2008 study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, for example, which examined concentrations of benzophenonone-3 (a.k.a. BP-3, or oxybenzone) in residents of the United States. The researchers concluded that while exposure to the chemical was prevalent in the population studied, “human exposure to BP-3 has not been associated with adverse health effects.”

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