Critics complain that sunscreen is laden with chemicals that have their own possible carcinogenic (or cancer-causing) effects. Sunscreens contain a long list of additives including oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, avobenzone, octinoxate, PABA, and more. The data on many of these ingredients is murky.
Perhaps the one ingredient worth noting on the list is oxybenzone. It has been accused of causing low birth weight in babies (when used by pregnant moms), disrupting the hormones in our bodies, and damaging cells. The jury
is still out on many of these allegations. But it seems clear that a significant amount of oxybenzone is absorbed into the skin because it can be found as a waste product in the urine of most users. Because it is absorbed,
it has greater potential for chemical effects on the body. No one agrees, however, on what exactly oxybenzone does once inside. The rest of the ingredients are either not absorbed into the skin or have not been documented to have adverse effects. PABA, once a controversial ingredient, has been removed from almost all sunscreens.
What is the bottom line? Regardless of the controversies over sunscreen, we know that the sun presents its own set of risks. Use common sense and minimize your--and your child's--sun exposure at peak times. Use protective clothing and hats. And when you need to apply sunscreen, use it properly. It takes almost an ounce of sunscreen to adequately cover the entire body. You need only apply it in sun-exposed areas, but it needs to be done generously and it must be reapplied every 1-2 hours or after swimming. There is no point to using just a little sunscreen--if you do, you run the risk of a burn PLUS exposure to the ingredients that are in question. Infants under six months really shouldn't be put in direct sunlight for more than a few minutes at a time. And as for sunscreen ingredients, because oxybenzone is absorbed through the skin, it is a good idea to limit its use until
biological effects are well known.
Want more? Watch Dr. Cara sum up "Sunscreen: Dangerous or Safe?" below.
Read more from Dr. Cara.
||Dr. Cara Natterson, author of Your Toddler: Head To Toe, is a pediatrician and mother of 2. To buy a copy, click here. She is currently working on the forthcoming book entitled Dangerous or Safe?