News from CRIS: What's the Risk? Sunscreen

May 9, 2022

What are the different types of sunscreens?

Sunscreen products help protect our skin from the sun's damaging ultraviolet rays. There are two types of sun rays, UVA and UVB, known to damage skin and cause skin cancers over time.
To combat the sun exposure, scientists developed lotions, sprays, oils, creams, gels, butters, pastes, ointments, and sticks that contain active ingredients that can help protect our skin from the damaging UVA and UVB rays.
Two types of active ingredients can provide broad-spectrum sunscreen coverage:

  • Mineral-based sunscreen.
  • Synthetic-based sunscreens.

What are the active ingredients found in sunscreens?

Mineral-based sunscreens use titanium dioxidezinc oxide, or these ingredients in combination to provide sun protection. 
Synthetic-based sunscreen use cinoxate, dioxybenzone, ensulizole, homosalate, meradimate, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, padimate O, sulisobenzone, oxybenzone, avobenzone, or some combination of these ingredients to provide sun protection.   

Are sunscreens regulated?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates sunscreens to ensure they meet safety and efficacy standards.  

How are mineral-based sunscreens different than synthetically-derived sunscreens?

While mineral and synthetically-derived sunscreens provide sun protection, our bodies absorb and process them differently.   
Our skin is an exposure route, as discussed in prior posts. While our skin generally serves as a barrier to prevent the entry of harmful pathogens and chemicals, it can sometimes absorb and process topically applied ingredients.
Mineral-based sunscreens contain active ingredients that researchers have repeatedly studied. Based on the scientific consensus, it has been determined that these sunscreens do not pose harm to human health. So, mineral-based sunscreens received the designation as generally recognized as safe and effective (GRASE) when used as intended and do not require any further safety evaluations (1,2).   
Our skin can absorb some synthetically-derived sunscreen ingredients, and these ingredients can make their way throughout our bodies. 
Research shows some of the active ingredients can be found in our bloodstream. Since there is no scientific consensus on these ingredients, scientists are researching what, if any, impact this has on our health before issuing a final safety determination.  


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