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Is Sunscreen Harmful to Your Health?

skinsunscreenHealth & Wellness • 3 min read • May 13, 2015 12:00:00 AM • Written by: Kat Smith

Sun safety always begins with the advice to put on sunscreen, but some people remain skeptical of the effectiveness and safety of sunscreen, citing a few common misconceptions about how sunscreen works. Because sunscreen is a mix of chemicals, there are concerns about whether or not these chemicals are safe to apply to the skin. If you are hesitant to wear sunscreen for this reason, you can rest assured that the FDA has approved the ingredients found in any sunscreen that you see on shelves. Still, there are some useful facts that can help you to make the most of your sunscreen use and feel completely safe under the sun.

Popular Sunscreen Myths

Sunscreen is safe overall, but many people do not use it correctly. You need to apply a thick layer of sunscreen to the skin; it should take a little time to fully rub in. It’s also necessary to reapply sunscreen about once every hour or two. Below, you can see the truth behind a few common sunscreen myths that will further improve your knowledge of sun safety.

• Myth: Sunscreen can reduce your immune health. Because most sunscreens use nanoparticles to make physical blockers appear translucent on the skin, there is criticism that these nanoparticles can be absorbed through the skin and reduce your immune health. While the jury is still out on this issue, there is evidence that nanoparticles in sunscreen do not go beyond the stratum corneum, or outermost layer of skin. If you stick to lotions rather than spray-on sunscreens, you can be worry-free, since there is no risk of inhaling sunscreen or spraying areas like the eyes or mouth.

• Myth: Sunscreen does not lower your cancer risk. When sunscreen is used correctly, it significantly reduces cancer risk, but many people will spend more time in the sun because they are wearing sunscreen or fail to reapply sunscreen, which then drives the risk for skin cancer back up.

• Myth: A base tan provides protection from the sun. Because people with darker skin do have a lower risk for developing skin cancer, people assume that a “base tan” can have protective qualities. However, tanning itself is a type of skin damage, so you should not try to protect yourself by tanning.

Safe Sun Practices

Beyond using sunscreen properly, you should also use some smart sun practices in terms of how much time you spend outside. There is an assumption that increased sun exposure is needed for effective vitamin D production in the body, but you can actually get sufficient vitamin D through your diet. If you do know that you will be outside for an extended period in a given day, you will want to supplement your sun protection with the right clothing to shield your skin.

When you do notice any changes to your skin after prolonged sun exposure, it is best to consult a doctor right away to minimize long-term risks. If you are concerned about your skin – anything from a bad sunburn to the changing color or shape of a mole – you can consult with a MeMD provider.

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Kat Smith