FDA Investigates Chemical Absorption Of Sunscreen (It's About Time)

mbg Editorial Assistant By Christina Coughlin
mbg Editorial Assistant
Christina Coughlin is an editorial assistant at mindbodygreen. She graduated from Georgetown University in 2019 with a degree in psychology and music.
Woman Applying Sunscreen at the Beach

Image by Orban Alija / Getty Images

While the Environmental Working Group has been warning us for years about the dangers of some chemical sunscreens, we're happy to see that the FDA is starting to listen. The organization recently published an investigation into the absorption of sunscreen, testing to see how the ingredients of the lotion affect our bodies and our bloodstream.

The study came as a follow-up to a pilot study from last May, which found traces of the lotion's ingredients in plasma samples of participants after they applied sunscreen under "maximal use conditions." As sunscreen usage has increased over the years, the FDA felt the need to investigate this issue further and see what's really happening to our bodies when we apply sunscreen.

The most recent study looked at 48 healthy participants, testing for traces of the sunscreen's six most active ingredients in people's blood. Participants were instructed to apply sunscreen multiple times daily over a period of four days, either through lotion, aerosol spray, nonaerosol spray, or a pump spray. 

Results showed that for each method of application, all six ingredients—avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, homosalate, octisalate, and octinoxate—were absorbed into the skin and high traces remained in the blood of participants. 

Next steps.

While these results seem concerning, the FDA states that these ingredients that remain in the bloodstream are not necessarily hazardous. They say there's a necessity for more testing into the specific ingredients to provide more data for their safety information. According to the report, "It's a high priority for the FDA and we continue to work toward establishing final marketing requirements for sunscreens." They also note that mineral sunscreens—zinc oxide and titanium dioxide—are well established as safe for use, which is why the ingredients were not part of this investigation.

This news reminds us how important it is to watch what we're putting on our skin. However, it is still essential to protect our skin from the sun: The FDA still recommends sunscreen as a protective measure along with clothing, hats, and sunglasses. Sun exposure can be very dangerous, and we need to take care of ourselves.

If you're looking for some safe sunscreen, check out our recommendations for nonchemical and nontoxic sunscreens to protect yourself against the sun while keeping any hazardous chemicals out of your system.

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