Could ingredients in your sunscreen be harmful? - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Could ingredients in your sunscreen be harmful?


More than two million people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year.  Experts agree the best way to prevent skin damage that can cause cancer is to slather on the sunscreen.  But could some chemicals in your sun block do more harm than good?    

You probably know it's important to look tat the amount of SPF in your sunscreen.  But there's good reason to look behind the bottle for what's inside your sun block, especially if you have sensitive skin.

From fishing by the lake to taking a walk or bike ride, on a beautiful day, you'll find a lot of folks outside soaking up the sun.  You probably know that before you head outdoors, it's a good idea to slather on some sunscreen.   

"We want to be able to protect the skin from any sun damage," said Meg Heatley, a physician's assistant with Dermatology Associates in Waterloo.

Dermatologists recommend you use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15.  To shield yourself from the sun's harmful rays, it's good to find a product with broad spectrum coverage, which blocks out UVA and UVB sunlight.  But beyond those things, it's also good to check the ingredients list when shopping for sun block.

"If your sunscreen has titanium and zinc in it, those are the two barriers that actually provide a sun block to prevent the sun from actually penetrating through to the skin.  In children's sunscreens, the titanium and zinc usually are ones that are better tolerated.  And so for the kids, you want to use that because their skin is much more fragile," Heatley said.

The same is true for adults with sensitive skin.  Sometimes, the common sunscreen chemicals oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate can actually damage your skin.

"If you notice a rash, itching or irritation, then that would indicate that you need to either switch brands of sunscreen, or switch to something that has less chemicals in it," said Heatley.

To make sure your sunscreen stays effective, be sure to reapply every two yours you spend out in the sun. 

One environmental group says only eight percent of all sunscreens on the market today contain ingredients like zinc and titanium that are less likely to cause skin problems.  In addition to the ingredients, be sure to check your sunscreen's expiration date.  Because no matter what's inside the product, it won't do you much good if it's expired.

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