Is Sunscreen Toxic? Here’s What Experts Want You To Know

Now, for some much-needed expert opinions, we have board-certified dermatologist Marisa Garshick, M.D., FAAD, and board-certified facial plastic surgeon Konstantin Vasyukevich, M.D. 

“The truth is there is no strong evidence to suggest sunscreen, especially mineral-based sunscreens, are harmful to humans and our health,” Vasyukevich says. This alludes to the main problem with all of these anti-sunscreen arguments—they are dismissing mineral formulas entirely. 

These products include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide—both of which are safe for human use and may even be better for folks with skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, as they soothe the skin barrier while simultaneously protecting against UV damage. Plus, they’re generally reef-safe. 

RELATED READ: Mineral Versus Chemical Sunscreen: What To Know About SPF + Pros & Cons

Regardless, “The more important fact is there is strong evidence to support wearing sunscreen helps prevent skin cancer,” Vayukevich says. Hence, why telling everyone to stop wearing sunscreen is quite dangerous. 

Not only is skin cancer widespread, but it’s deadly. This is a bleak reality, but it’s true. The American Cancer Society reports about 2,000 people in the United States die every year from skin cancer. And while it might sound obvious, over 90% of skin cancers are caused by the sun

Even if you don’t get skin cancer or even a sunburn, your skin still gets damaged when you spend extended time in the sun without protection. “Just because you don’t develop a sunburn, the skin is still being affected by UV rays,” Marcus says. “UVB tends to be responsible for burns, while UVA is responsible for changes associated with skin aging, but both can contribute to skin cancer,” she adds. 

Now, there has been some research done on your diet’s role in skin cancer, many suggesting that antioxidants may help to prevent skin cancer—anti-sunscreen TikTok users have taken this research and run with it, extrapolating the study findings to assume that food causes cancer and the sun doesn’t. 

There’s no question that your diet plays a role in your overall health and disease prevention, but stating that simply eating healthy food can prevent or cause cancer (especially in a generalized fashion) isn’t a science-backed claim. And to forget the nuance is just plain dangerous. 

Finally, anti-sunscreen advocates continue to emphasize the importance of vitamin D, assuming you can and should only get it from the sun. Here’s the thing: You can get vitamin D from sunlight, but for many, sun exposure alone is not enough to provide all the vitamin D that your body needs. 

Even if you’re outside in the heat all day long, you still may be vitamin D deficient. “In one study, [researchers] followed migrant farmworkers in Florida, as well as farmworkers in Hawaii,” board-certified dermatologist Shasa Hu, M.D., professor at the University of Miami who specializes in skin cancer detection, shares in a recent episode of Clean Beauty School.

She adds, “They found significant vitamin D deficiency in farmworkers who don’t use sunscreen. So even if you work outside in the field eight hours a day in various sunny [conditions], you can still be vitamin D deficient.”



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