Safety concerns of chemical sunscreens has been a hot topic recently. The state of Hawaii has banned
sunscreens containing avobenzone and octinoxate starting January 1, 2021 because of potential harm to
coral reefs. In terms of safety with human exposure, there is concern over avobenzone’s potential effect
on hormones. Because of these issues, on February 21, 2019, the Food and Drug Administration
proposed a rule to regulate OTC sunscreens. They stated that zinc oxide and titanium dioxide sunscreen
ingredients are generally recognized as safe and effective (GRASE). All 12 chemical ingredients on the
market they said are not GRASE. The FDA also said that further studies of all these chemical sunscreen
ingredients would need to be performed to ensure safety of the public.
What does this mean for the consumer? The FDA is looking out for patients’ health. It doesn’t mean
that chemical sunscreens are unsafe but mineral sunscreen including zinc and titanium appear to be
more safe. I tell my patients that sunscreens are an important part of preventing skin cancer. I
personally use both chemical and mineral sunscreens for ultraviolet protection. If you use sunscreens
daily for your job, then you may want to use a mineral sunscreen with zinc or titanium.
Remember that sunscreens prevent formation of precancerous actinic keratoses and cancers (mostly
squamous cell carcinomas) and prevent sunburn, which will help reduce wrinkles and lentigines (liver
spots). Since skin cancer incidence is on the rise, using sunscreen is one of the most important tools in
the prevention of skin cancer. Coming up with the safest sunscreens is everyone’s goal.
-Dr. Timothy Nielsen
If you have any concerns or questions about skin care, Call Nielsen Dermatology in Boynton Beach, FL & Boca Raton, FL