This paper comes in the wake of Hawaiian legislation banning the sale and distribution of sunscreens containing the ingredients oxybenzone and octinoxate, citing research that suggests they may contribute to coral bleaching. While the scientific evidence highlighted in the article raises environmental concerns related to sunscreen, the authors maintain that more research is necessary and emphasize the importance of protection from UV exposure.
“While there is emerging evidence that chemical sunscreen ingredients could enter the water supply and affect marine life, including fish and coral reefs, more research will be necessary to draw any firm conclusions, and there have been no demonstrable harmful effects in humans,” says author Henry W. Lim, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and chair emeritus of the dermatology department at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit. “What we do know is that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, and UV exposure is a major skin cancer risk factor. As such, everyone should still take steps to protect themselves from the sun’s harmful UV rays.”
Skin cancer affects one in five Americans in their lifetime. To reduce the risk of skin cancer, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends a comprehensive sun protection plan that includes seeking shade, wearing protective clothing, and generously applying a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to exposed skin. Those who are concerned about the potential effects of chemical sunscreen ingredients on the environment can opt for a physical sunscreen containing the active ingredients zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
“All of the active ingredients in U.S. sunscreens have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as safe and effective for human use,” says board-certified dermatologist Suzanne M. Olbricht, MD, FAAD, president of the AAD. “Claims that any of these ingredients are toxic or a hazard to human health have not been proven. In fact, scientific evidence supports the benefits of applying sunscreen to minimize short- and long-term damage to the skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays.”
About the AAD Headquartered in Rosemont, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology, founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 19,000 physicians worldwide, the AAD is committed to advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin, hair and nails. For more information, contact the AAD at (888) 462-DERM (3376) or aad.org. Follow the AAD on Facebook (American Academy of Dermatology), Twitter (@AADskin) or YouTube (AcademyofDermatology).