Sunscreen: Recalls, Suncare Tips, And Sunscreen Recommendations

Dr. Liia Ramachandra, Pharm.D., Ph.D. is a serial entrepreneur and healthcare executive. Dr. Liia is the Founder and CEO EpiLynx, Gluten-Free Skin Care and Cosmetics Brand. She comes with vast experience in Global Medical Affairs, Global Ethics and Compliance, Clinical Research, and Global Publications. Dr. Liia drove the development of the strategic vision and mission for the national field-based medical program, the development of publication plans, the planning and management of medical activities at scientific congresses, the development of programs resources for Regional Medical Liaisons, and Biopharmaceutical Representatives. She has worked with multiple companies like Takeda, Pfizer, and Astellas. Dr. Liia holds a Master’s degree in Pharmacy and Doctorate in Pharmacy from Groningen University, the Netherlands, and a Ph.D. from the University of Utrecht, Netherlands. Haute Beauty expert Dr. Liia discusses sunscreen recalls, ingredients to look out for, and what sunscreens you should and shouldn't use.

sunscreenPhoto Credit: ShutterstockHaute Beauty: What labels a sunscreen 'good' and what labels a sunscreen 'bad'?

Valisure has analyzed various brands of sunscreens and has detected high levels of known human carcinogen benzene in many of them. They have asked the FDA to take action! 78 sunscreens and after-sun care products contained benzene, an industrial chemical known to cause cancer and other potentially serious health risks. Benzene is not labeled as one of the ingredients and was (most likely) NOT put in there on purpose.

HB: What is the #1 thing buyers should look at to distinguish which sunscreen they should purchase?

Always look at the ingredients. Not all sunscreens are created equally. Mineral sunscreens are your best line of defense against sun damage, premature aging, and skin cancer—and the new formulations are better than ever.

Also, unlike chemical sunscreens, which typically take 20 to 30 minutes to absorb into the skin, mineral sunscreens offer immediate protection — no waiting needed. Mineral sunscreens can also be applied on top of makeup and other skincare products.

The main difference between chemical and mineral sunscreens can be found in their ingredient lists. Chemical sunscreens have ingredients that may potentially cause health problems for you and your kid. Mineral sunscreens, on the other hand, use two natural minerals—zinc oxide and titanium dioxide—as active ingredients. These minerals simply sit on top of your skin and protect it by reflecting away UV rays.

Chemical sunscreen is one whose active ingredients are non-natural, chemical compounds. Here are a few examples of chemical ingredients commonly found in a sunscreen:

● Oxybenzone
● Avobenzone
● Octinoxate
● Homosalate
● Octisalate
● Octocrylene

Despite the fact that these compounds have all been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), research shows potential risks for several of them. Because chemical sunscreens are absorbed into the skin, they tend to have a lighter formulation than physical sunscreens. However, they also tend to have more chemical ingredients to provide broad-spectrum coverage from UV rays, including preservatives, dyes, and fragrances, which can cause skin irritations.

Also, There have been a lot of worrisome reports recently about the health effects of sunscreens with chemical ingredients such as oxybenzone and avobenzone, substances shown to protect skin from the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays, which can cause sunburns and skin cancer.

sunscreenPhoto Credit: ShutterstockHB: What sunscreens have been recalled and why?

You can find a full list here. They have been recalled due to the contamination with benzene.

HB: What is benzene exactly?

Benzene is a colorless, flammable liquid with a sweet odor. It evaporates quickly when exposed to air. Benzene is formed from natural processes, such as volcanoes and forest fires, but most exposure to benzene results from human activities. Benzene is among the 20 most widely used chemicals in the United States. It is used mainly as a starting material in making other chemicals, including plastics, lubricants, rubbers, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides. In the past, it was also commonly used as an industrial solvent (a substance that can dissolve or extract other substances) and as a gasoline additive, but these uses have been greatly reduced in recent decades. Benzene is known to cause cancer, based on evidence from studies in both people and lab animals. The link between benzene and cancer has largely focused on leukemia and other cancers of blood cells.

HB: How are people exposed to benzene?

The main way people are exposed is by breathing in air containing benzene. Benzene can also be absorbed through the skin during contact with a source such as gasoline, but because liquid benzene evaporates quickly, this is less common.

HB: How can you tell that your sunscreen has been contaminated?

You can find it in the list mentioned here. But there might be more sunscreens that are contaminated. In the link, you can find the sunscreens that were tested.

HB: Is sunscreen safe for you? Is it actually protective?

Misinformation about sunscreen is common. Don't let myths deter you from using it to protect your skin. Please do use sunscreen the whole year round! It is definitely recommended to use sunscreen for skin cancer prevention, including melanoma prevention, which has been demonstrated in cohort studies as well as prospective randomized trials. Also, people looking to ward off the aging effects from the sun would still benefit from sun-protective habits, which include sunscreen, sun-protective clothing, and sun avoidance. In conclusion, use mineral sunscreen (titanium dioxide and zinc oxide preferred) and use it the whole year-round.

HB: What sunscreen, if any, do you recommend? Why?

Please do not use the sunscreens mentioned above in the link. Plus only use mineral sunscreens and reapply multiple times during the day. Please consult your kid pediatrician or your dermatologist for the best sunscreens for your skin. We recommend EpiLynx's moisturizer SPF 30 that only uses mineral ingredients.

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