FDA Issues New Warnings About Sunscreen: Here’s What You Need to Know

You need to slather on the sunscreen, so find out how to use it safely.

By: Amanda Mushro


Photo by: Chad Springer

Chad Springer

Slathering sunscreen on your kids before heading outside has probably become a routine in your home. However, recent warnings from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the chemicals in sunscreen have some parents questioning whether they should continue using the product. Here’s what you need to know about the recent warnings and what experts say is best for you and your family when it comes to sun safety.

A study published in the medical journal JAMA found that chemicals in sunscreen don't just sit on top of your skin — some are actually absorbed into your bloodstream. Several active ingredients in different sunscreens, including avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene and ecamsule, enter the bloodstream at levels that far exceed the FDA's recommendations, the study found.

Experts agree that you should continue using sunscreen but suggest avoiding brands that use the previously named ingredients, especially oxybenzone. According to doctors, oxybenzone is a potential endocrine disruptor. This means that the chemical can affect growth, development and reproduction. Studies have also shown that oxybenzone is linked to weak estrogen in girls and can lower testosterone in adolescent boys.

Oxybenzone has also played a role in damaging coral reefs and has been harmful to the environment. Last year, Hawaii became the first state to ban selling of any sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate.

As for the other three chemicals — avobenzone, octocrylene and ecamsule — the FDA believes more studies are needed to understand whether or not they are truly harmful to kids and adults.

"The fact that an ingredient is absorbed through the skin and into the body does not mean the ingredient is unsafe," said Theresa Michele, M.D., the director of the FDA’s Division of Nonprescription Drug Products and one of the study's authors. "Rather, this finding supports FDA’s call to determine the safety of sunscreen ingredients for repeated use."

So, what should you do to keep your skin safe this summer? Just like reading labels on food, reading the ingredients on the back of a sunscreen bottle is important. Before you stock up for summer, now is a great time to read the labels of products around your house and consider new brands to protect your family’s skin. For further caution, experts also suggest reaching for mineral sunscreens because they will protect your skin and do not contain harsh chemicals.

Before heading outside, remember to choose clothes, hats and sunglasses that are designed to keep the skin protected. Additionally, try staying out of the sun as much as possible during the peak hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. There are plenty of ways to have fun in the sun while protecting your precious skin, too.