Chemical or Mineral Sunscreen? What To Know About Current Sunscreen Research : Shots - Health News The government asked manufacturers to complete safety studies on the active ingredients in sunscreens by November. In the meantime, what do you need to know about the goo you slather on your skin?

Confused About Sunscreen Ingredients? Here's What We've Learned

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And now in these dog days of August, a reminder to check what is in your sunscreen. Earlier this year, the FDA raised safety concerns about some chemicals in certain sunscreens. NPR's Patti Neighmond reports.

PATTI NEIGHMOND, BYLINE: When we buy sunscreen, dermatologist Kanade Shinkai with the University of California, San Francisco says most of us don't think about it building up in our bodies.

KANADE SHINKAI: I think there was sort of an assumption that these are - you know, these are things that we apply to our skin. They don't really get into our bloodstream.

NEIGHMOND: But earlier this year, the FDA found four chemicals, including oxybenzone, can enter the bloodstream and at levels significantly higher than the FDA now allows. The federal agency has asked manufacturers to do safety studies to see if sunscreen chemicals absorbed into the bloodstream cause any harmful effects.

SHINKAI: We need to pay attention to these chemical sunscreens and just study them to make sure that they're safe.

NEIGHMOND: While waiting for answers, Shinkai says, there's one thing we know for sure - exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays is a major risk factor for skin cancer, which can be deadly. So don't stop protecting yourself, she says, which is pretty straightforward.

SHINKAI: Seeking shade. Avoiding outdoor activities during the peak hours of the sun, which in general are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

NEIGHMOND: And if you are outside during this time, dermatologist David Leffell with Yale School of Medicine suggests wearing a brimmed hat and sun protective clothing.

DAVID LEFFELL: It used to be that this clothing came in one color. They looked like prison uniforms, and understandably, people weren't excited about wearing them.

NEIGHMOND: But today that's changed. Sun protective clothing now comes in lots of colors and many styles. And if you want to play it completely safe, Leffell says buy a product that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, ingredients which are not absorbed into the bloodstream and that have been proved to be safe.

LEFFELL: There are so many products available now that are pure mineral sunblocks that you no longer have to look like you've got a white clown face. The products are really quite elegant.

NEIGHMOND: These mineral sunscreens coat the skin and physically block the sun's rays by reflecting them away from the skin.

Patti Neighmond, NPR News.


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