Sunscreen ingredients like oxybenzone are less risky for kids than skin cancer

Sunscreens that use minerals like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are safe and effective, but chemicals like oxybenzone warrant more study.

A recent study by the Journal of the American Medical Association, JAMA has prompted worries about sunscreen ingredients such as oxybenzone that can be absorbed into the bloodstream, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop protecting your family’s skin from ultraviolet rays.

Indeed, the risks of skin cancer and other effects of overexposure to the sun far outweigh potential problems from absorbing sunscreen ingredients.

“The concern of certain chemicals and their ability to enter the bloodstream through skin contact has raised concern,” said Melody Presley, APRN, nurse practitioner with Norton Community Medical Group – Taylorsville. “However, until further studies can be conducted, sunscreens are still safe to use and should be used. If you are concerned about the ingredients, try to find sunscreen that is mineral based.”

The FDA earlier this year said sunscreens that are mineral based — using zinc oxide or titanium dioxide — are safe and effective.

Oxybenzone and three other sunscreen ingredients tested

In a preliminary study completed by JAMA, a small number of participants applied sunscreens in various forms four times per day. The JAMA study found high absorption of chemical sunscreen ingredients avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene and ecamsule.

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Sunscreen is still safe to use on your children and family. There is a common myth that on cloudy days you can’t get sunburned. This isn’t true. UV rays can still damage the skin, even on a cloudy day.

With kids, there is always unplanned time outside. Remember to plan ahead and keep sunscreen handy — in the car or in your child’s backpack.

What to look for in a quality sunscreen

  • The sunscreen should read broad spectrum somewhere on the label. This will ensure that it protects from both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Look for bottles that are 15 to 50 SPF (sun protection factor). Anything over 50 SPF has not yet been proven to protect skin any more than a product in the 15 to 50 SPF range.
  • Sunscreen should be reapplied every 80 minutes and applied again when getting out of the water. Every bottle of sunscreen should list an expiration date; this should be closely followed, as some sunscreens lose effectiveness.
  • Cream sunscreen should be used on the face. If you do not have cream, spray sunscreen can be sprayed in the palm of the hand and applied to the face. Mineral-based, cream sunscreens are best to avoid irritating the eyes. One tip for women is to use a foundation or facial moisturizer that has an SPF.
  • The proper amount is around one ounce of sunscreen for full body protection, depending on body size and clothing.
  • UV protectant hats and sunglasses, as well as shirts, can also be used for extra protection.

According to Melody, the nurse practitioner, everyone should protect their skin, no matter their age, race, skin tone, or gender, and even if they already have sun damage to their skin.