After the reports surfaced this summer that most sunscreens contain vitamin A and oxybenzone and that BOTH actually attract skin cancer loving cells, I have been obsessively checking labels at grocery stores as well as the labels of the brands my friends love. Now that I officially started a 4 alarm fire (kidding… kind of…) for my best sun loving buds, Breezy Mama’s favorite Go-To dermatologist Dr. Vi set me straight. Read on to find out why the headline grabbing claims of summer 2010 were over exaggerated, how to check your own sunscreen and necessary ingredients to look for just in time to keep your skin protected this fall as well as heading into ski season.
Dr. Vi – the claims that oxybenzone and vitamin A were going to cause skin cancer set me into a tail spin. Were these claims correct?
No. And yes. There have been some animal studies that have linked these ingredients to side effects. Specifically, retinyl palmitate, a vitamin A compound, was linked to skin cancer in laboratory rats. Also, animal studies have linked oxybenzone to allergies and hormone alterations. However, there has never been a link between either of these ingredients (vitamin A and oxybenzone) to harm in humans.
What ingredients should our sunscreen have?
Sunscreen should have a broad spectrum of protection, covering both UVA and UVB. Certain ingredients, such as zinc, titanium, mexoryl, and avobenzone offer broad spectrum protection.
What brands are your current favorites?
I do not like to give a brand favorite, since there are many good brands. Instead, look for a sunscreen with a 30 or higher SPF and with one of the 4 ingredients mentioned above. Just pick one that you like and can afford so that you use it.
Are there any “scary” ingredients to avoid as headlines claimed about vitamin A and oxybenzone?
No. There is no human data to show that any of these ingredients are harmful.
Is there a place for moms to double check if their sunscreen passes as a quality brand?
You may look at the Environmental Working Group’s website www.ewg.org. But remember that this is not endorsed by any dermatology group.
I feel the media came down on spray sunscreens also, but they are convenient for kids. What is your opinion on spray sunscreens?
I do not like them. They go everywhere but on your kid. The real problem is that you just do not get enough on. However, I will use it if I am desperate at the beach (if my sandy kid refuses to rinse off the sand to apply the regular sunscreen).
Anything else you’d like to share?
You know it. Let’s face it….there is one “organic” sun protection- clothing. Wear a hat and stay out of the sun. Train your kids to wear a rash guard (and wear one yourself.) But if this is just not practical to totally stay out of the sun, then wear your sunscreen. Talk to your doctor about your vitamin D levels. We prefer that you practice safe sun and take your vitamin D orally if needed.
Keep your kids safe from one another! Learn how to encourage healthy sibling relationships during Breezy Mama’s FREE webinar with Positive Parenting Solutions on Wednesday September 29th at 8pm pacific. To learn more — click here!
About Dr. Vi
Vishakha Gigler, M.D. is a board certified dermatologist. She enjoys practicing medical, cosmetic, and surgical dermatology, including Mohs micrographic surgery. Dr. Gigler was recognized as a “top doctor” by her colleagues in 2007 in San Diego Magazine. She prides herself in delivering the highest level of medical care. For more information, visit www.comprehensivederm.com
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