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Sunscreen: To Use Or Not To Use?

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(Photo credit: Thinkstock)

(Photo credit: Thinkstock)

(CBS Radio) — While Americans have been using sunscreen for around one hundred years, new research shows that certain brands of sunscreen might be doing more harm than good.

In the United States, nearly one billion dollars is spent on sunscreen annually, and yet, very few people stop to think about the dangers of certain chemical sunscreens and the effect they may have on the body.

Your skin is your body’s largest organ, and everything that your skin comes in contact with has the potential to enter your bloodstream and cause damage to your cells and other organs within the body. Once applied on the skin, sunscreen can remain in the body for a couple of days. The toxic chemicals in many brands of sunscreen can be detected in your urine, blood, and in a mother’s breast milk — which in turn can be passed on to her nursing baby. Even more unsettling, perhaps, is that the use of chemical sunscreen crosses the placenta in pregnant women, and can possibly lead to birth defects.

Furthermore, in 2012, only 25 percent of sunscreens available for purchase in our country adequately protected skin from sun damage without using toxic chemicals. That same year, 56 percent of sunscreens contained oxybenzone — a chemical known to cause damage to healthy cells in addition to potentially contributing to developing skin cancer.

Research also suggests that sunscreens that contain retinyl palminate (vitamin A) have been linked to skin cancer in mice. However, it is not clear at this time if the use of vitamin A in sunscreen promotes skin cancer in humans.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA,) a plethora of sunscreens sold in stores throughout the country are deemed safe and effective, however the FDA is in the process of implementing stricter measures to ensure that the makers of sunscreen properly advertise the safety and effectiveness each product offers consumers.

Sun Exposure And Sunscreen

- In moderation, exposure to the sun is healthy — as it provides our bodies with vitamin D. Additionally, sunlight also brightens our mood. It is believed that 20 minutes of sun exposure per day is considered a healthy “dose” of vitamin D. Sunscreen is not thought to be needed when in the sun for 20 minutes each day. However, if you plan to be in the sun for more than 20 minutes on any given day, you should definitely use sunscreen to prevent skin damage from harmful UVA and UVB rays.

- If you are worried about toxic chemicals found in certain brands of sunscreen, make sure to check the labels and avoid purchasing sunscreen that contains oxybenzone and/or retinyl palminate.

- UVA rays and UVB rays both equally contribute to developing skin cancer. Make sure whichever sunscreen you purchase protects against UVA and UVB rays.

- For best results, reapply sunscreen every two hours.

- Choose a sunscreen between SPF 15 and SPF 50. Surprisingly, the higher SPF’s barely offer more protection from the sun.

-QC Writer, CBS Radio

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