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VERIFY: Yes, sunscreen can be absorbed into your blood, but that doesn't mean you should stop wearing it

The FDA found evidence that the active ingredients in sunscreen can seep into your bloodstream even after one use. However, they say you should continue wearing it.

WASHINGTON —

THE QUESTION

Is there evidence that sunscreen can get absorbed into the bloodstream?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

Yes, the FDA conducted two studies that found several ingredients in sunscreen get absorbed into the bloodstream and can linger for awhile. However, the FDA has not determined whether or not this is cause for concern and is encouraging the public to continue wearing sunscreen. The FDA says more data is required. 

WHAT WE FOUND

FDA scientists wanted to find out whether the chemicals in sunscreen get absorbed in a person's blood, so they conducted two studies: one in 2019, and one a few months later in 2020.

In 2019, four sunscreens were tested on 24 people to see whether high levels of Avobenzone, Oxybenzone, Octocrylene and Ecamsule were found in their plasmas.

In 2020, the study grew; four sunscreens were tested on 48 people, to assess whether high concentrations of  Avobenzone, Oxybenzone, Octocrylene, Homosalate, Octisalate and Octinoxate, were found during periodic blood tests.

They were—all of them.

On their website, the FDA said that more data is needed, but so far, the 2020 study showed all six ingredients were absorbed in the bloodstream after just one use. Once absorbed, they said, the chemicals can linger in your body for awhile.

The caveat is that the study participants used a lot of sunscreen.

So we can Verify, there is some evidence sunscreen ingredients can seep into your blood. As for whether or not that's dangerous, at this point we still don’t know.

In early 2020 the FDA said more data was needed:

"Importantly, both of these studies support an FDA proposed rule, issued in February of 2019, aimed at bringing over-the-counter (OTC) sunscreens up to date with the latest scientific standards.... As part of this rule, the FDA has asked industry and other interested parties for additional safety data on 12 active sunscreen ingredients currently available in marketed products. While both of these studies make a great start, additional data are needed for each of these 12 active sunscreen ingredients in order to fully understand their absorption into the body as well as the long-term effects of absorption. Without further testing, the FDA does not know what levels of absorption can be considered safe."

RELATED: VERIFY: Yes, you should reapply sunscreen every 2 hours while outside

“When we say ‘found in the bloodstream,’ we're talking about Nano molar concentrations, that's billionths of a molar," Dr. Friedman said. "So very, very small concentrations.”

Dr. Friedman says that doesn’t inherently mean its dangerous.

"The purpose of these studies was to show that we can actually detect such low levels in the blood, it did not translate into any disease or concern," Dr. Friedman said. "But that's how these studies were interpreted, that if you apply sunscreen at optimal use, because that's what they did, they put a ton all over the body multiple times a day, no one is actually doing that, you can get some in your bloodstream, they did not correlate that to actual disease..."

So it’s still unknown just what the safety take-away is.

Which begs the question: in light of this research, should you stop wearing sunscreen?

Our experts both say, unequivocally no.

"The fact is, the World Health Organization has deemed ultraviolet radiation as a known carcinogen," Dr. Friedman said. "A study showing that sunscreen may get in your blood a little bit, with no evidence saying that that then leads to problems with health or ultimately disease down the road, does not mean you should stop using sunscreen.”

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