FFS, Sunscreen Isn’t Bad for You

If you’re trying to gain social media exposure, it’s hard to do so by telling people what they already know to be the truth. Instead, you have to surprise them: crackers are now bad, raw meat is good, and sunscreen — the good old undeniable sunscreen — is now allegedly causing cancer.

Lest anyone point out the obvious contradiction (the sun causes many more cancers than sunscreen), you’ll just move the gateposts: sunscreen’s chemicals are endocrine disrupting, or they’re bad for coral reefs, or whatever sounds convincing At the moment. .

None of this really adds up when you look at it: the benefits of sunscreen are real and well known. It would take something really wrong with sunscreen – any type of sunscreen – to so outweigh these benefits that you’d be better off without them.

Sunscreen does not cause cancer

First, let’s look at the claim that skin cancer is caused by sunscreen itself, not the sun. Several fact-checking agencies looked into this claim after it circulated on social media, so I’ll direct you to their reports here and here . The World Health Organization estimates that 80% of skin cancers can be prevented with good sun protection.

In 2021, several sunscreens were found to contain trace amounts of benzene , which is known to be a carcinogen. But benzene is not a sunscreen ingredient; it was pollution, and the lab that published their results was trying to get better regulation to prevent pollution, rather than claiming that sunscreens are always bad. Trace amounts of benzene are also found in air, water and soil. It’s not good at all, but it’s not a sunscreen problem.

Sunscreen ingredients are not known to mess with your hormones

Another claim related to the safety of sunscreens is that some of the popular active ingredients, such as oxybenzone, are “endocrine disruptors.” This is based on animal studies that show that a huge amount of the substance (much more than anyone is exposed to sunscreen) can affect animal hormones. No human studies have ever shown dangers here.

More research is needed, but that’s no reason not to use sunscreen. In the meantime, if you’re concerned about oxybenzone, you can use a mineral sunscreen instead.

Sunscreen doesn’t make you vitamin D deficient

One way to get vitamin D is from the sun; Sunlight helps us convert the inactive form of vitamin D in our skin into a form our bodies can use.

Some influencers and biohackers living in the paleosphere have used this fact to argue that we should soak up as much sun as possible to maximize our vitamin D levels. But if you’re that worried about vitamin D, you can always take supplements or just make sure you eat a lot of foods containing this vitamin. (Your body doesn’t care if you got your D from the sun or from your diet.)

A consensus statement from “13 experts in endocrinology, dermatology, photobiology, epidemiology, and biological anthropology” concludes that the routine use of sunscreen for sun protection is normal. Another thing is people with skin diseases who require maximum protection and spend very little time in the sun; these people should take vitamin D.

We don’t really know if sunscreen is bad for coral reefs.

Some chemicals in sunscreen are toxic to corals in high amounts. This is clear from laboratory experiments. But the amount of chemicals used in these experiments has not been seen in nature, even in beach areas popular with swimmers. It is possible that trace amounts of sunscreen chemicals can affect corals, but we have no evidence for or against this.

If you care about corals, it’s important to know that they have more serious problems than sunscreen. These include elevated temperatures due to climate change, as well as sewage and sewage that is being dumped into the ocean. Meanwhile, the “reef-safe” labels on sunscreens aren’t based on evidence; we don’t know if “reef-safe” sunscreens are actually better for corals than unlabeled ones .

Stoking fear of sunscreen is out of touch with reality

All of the above notwithstanding, there is money to be made in scaring people away from sunscreen, so you will see these claims keep coming up. If you have a wellness brand that focuses on doing things the “natural” or “hereditary” way, posting negative sunscreen reviews will make most of your readers happy and some of them angry, leading to fights in the comments. satisfying algorithms. .

Meanwhile, companies that sell sunscreen will take on some of these myths to tell you why their sunscreens are safer. If you google sunscreen safety terms, you’ll get ads for the Environmental Working Group’s sunscreen safety guide, which is bullshit for the same reasons their Dirty Dozen product guide is bullshit – everything on the list is good . but they are making money to convince people that they need certain types of food (or vegetables) over others, and for that they need the help of the EWG.

The bottom line, though, is summarized in this FAQ by the American Academy of Dermatology : “Scientific evidence supports the benefits of using sunscreen to minimize short-term and long-term skin damage from UV radiation. Claims that sunscreen ingredients are toxic or harmful to human health have not been proven.”

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