True or False? Sunscreen Chemicals Can Enter the Bloodstream Within 26 Seconds

Have you heard the claim that 60% of skincare products like sunscreen can penetrate into the bloodstream in just 26 seconds? These figures have recently gained in popularity despite not being scientifically supported. What IS scientifically supported is that after just one application, seven of the chemicals commonly found in sunscreen can enter the bloodstream at levels exceeding safety thresholds (Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, an arm of the Food and Drug Administration). In other words, those trendy sunscreens you buy at your local store may not be what you bargained for.

I grew up under the Texas hot sun and spent a lot of time outdoors. I took advice from my dermatologist and adopted a rigorous sunscreen routine believing it would provide adequate protection from sunburn damage. A decade later when I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Melanoma, I had to reconsider a lot of things… including the sunscreen products I was using.

Summer weather is quickly approaching and sunscreen use is being promoted as essential to avoid skin damage and cancer. Our research revealed some surprising facts about sunscreen that you might not know: although sunscreens are often recommended as protection from sunburn and skin cancer, certain popular brands contain ingredients known to damage human hormones.

This blog post is all about dispelling myths surrounding sunscreen ingredients and showing you how to select products that won’t endanger your health.

It’s Healthy to Be Out In the Sun

As previously mentioned, I was religious about applying sunscreen. I followed the directions of my dermatologist faithfully, putting on sunscreen every day as soon as I woke up and being careful to avoid the sun as much as possible. Ten years later I found myself with a diagnosis of Stage 4 Melanoma cancer. After years of study on natural health, I have come to believe it’s the chemical soup in all that sunscreen and lack of UVB rays getting to my skin that were part of getting melanoma, and not sun exposure. (Safe Sun Exposure Does Not Cause Melanoma)

Vitamin D: The Sunshine Hormone That Fights Cancer

It’s through our everyday exposure to natural sunlight that the body is triggered to produce the hormone calcitriol that is associated with reduction in the risk of not only cancer, but heart disease and viral infections. Read all about the extraordinary benefits of this gift from the sun: Vitamin D: The Sunshine Hormone That Fights Cancer.

The Facts

Environmental Working Group studies reveal that on average people consume 9 personal care products daily containing 126 ingredients with potentially questionable health implications; these can range from synthetic ingredients to toxic ones that irritate skin or act as potential carcinogens as well as cause havoc with our hormonal development. And as previously mentioned, it might only take one sunscreen application to deliver chemicals into your bloodstream at levels exceeding safety thresholds.

Researchers have discovered that not all sunscreens offer equal protection and some contain specific chemical components that pose hidden health risks. At the center of this debate are three chemicals found in many sunscreens: oxybenzone, octinoxate and homosalate. Once revered as UV blockers, these ingredients have recently come under scrutiny as studies reveal they penetrate skin layers into bloodstream, potentially acting as hormone disruptors with potential side effects for development, reproduction and neurologic issues; with Oxybenzone being detected in over 50% of American populations. While the EWG reported that the number of sunscreens containing oxybenzone has fallen drastically, “endocrine disrupters and other potentially dangerous ingredients persist despite FDA concerns” (Bloomberg).

Mineral-Based Sunscreens

As a result of these findings, mineral-based sunscreens have emerged as safer options. Components such as zinc oxide bind directly to skin’s surface, reflecting UV rays without risk of skin penetration or hormone disruption – offering immediate coverage without additional environmental burden. These physical blockers offer broad-spectrum protection.

What I Use

Selecting an effective sunscreen requires carefully reading labels and selecting products with broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection without using harmful chemicals. 3rd Rock Essentials products are my favorite. Their company was founded by an esteemed chemist and natural products activist, and all their products are pure, organic and toxin-free with ingredients sourced within the U.S. Their claim is that their products are so pure, you can eat them!

If you want to research and compare various sunscreens, you can check out EWG’s Guide to Sunscreens where they highlight sunscreens for regular use, including the top-rated sunscreens for infants and children. And by the way, you’ll see 3rd Rock sunblocks at the top of the list.

As consumers, our decisions help increase demand for safer and more eco-friendly sun protection products. It is vitally important that you educate yourself about any products purchased for yourself or your family in order to enjoy the great outdoors without endangering your health.



Food & Drug Administration. Shedding More Light on Sunscreen Absorption.

Matta MK, Florian J, Zusterzeel R, Pilli NR, Patel V, Volpe DA, Yang Y, Oh L, Bashaw E. Zineh I Kemp S Godfrey A Adah Coelho S Wang J Furlong LA Ganley C Michele T Strauss DG are conducting a Randomized Clinical Trial Effect of Sunscreen Application on Plasma Concentrations of Sunscreen Active Ingredients. JAMA 2020 Jan 21;323(3):256-267 PMID:31961417 PMCID PMC6990686 PMID 311961417 and PMCID PMCID PMC6990686 respectively PMID 311961417 PMCID PMC6990686 for error PMID 311961417 and PMCID PMC6990686 for errors PMID 311961417 and PMCID PMC6990686 for errors.

Jiang R, Roberts MS, Collins DM, Benson HA. Absorption of sunscreens across human skin: an evaluation of commercial products for children and adults. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 1999 Oct;48(4):635-7. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2125.1999.00056.x. PMID: 10583038; PMCID: PMC2014387.

Grégoire S, Ribaud C, Benech F, Meunier JR, Garrigues-Mazert A, Guy RH. Prediction of chemical absorption into and through the skin from cosmetic and dermatological formulations. Br J Dermatol. 2009 Jan;160(1):80-91. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2008.08866.x. Epub 2008 Sep 20. PMID: 18811683.

Brown HS, Bishop DR, Rowan CA. The role of skin absorption as a route of exposure for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in drinking water. Am J Public Health. 1984 May;74(5):479-84. doi: 10.2105/ajph.74.5.479. PMID: 6711723; PMCID: PMC1651599.

Trisha Calvo of Consumer Reports offers her analysis in “New Study Raise Safety Concerns About Sunscreens: FDA Researchers Find Some Sunscreen Ingredients Absorb into Body.” Accessed 4/7/2024

Andrews DQ, Rauhe K, Burns C, Spilman E, Temkin AM, Perrone-Gray S, Naidenko OV and Leiba N. Lab tests of sunscreens sold on the US market show lower SPF values in vitro than label claims and even less UVA protection than advertised on labels. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed 2022 May;38(3):224-232 and doi: 10.1111/phpp.12738 were evaluated before publication on Oct 19 2021 October 19. PMID 34601762; PMCID PMC9298345.

Majhi PD, Sharma A, Roberts AL, Daniele E, Majewski AR, Chuong LM, Black AL, Vandenberg LN, Schneider SS, Dunphy KA, Jerry DJ. Effects of Benzophenone-3 and Propylparaben on Estrogen Receptor-Dependent R-Loops and DNA Damage in Breast Epithelial Cells and Mice. Environ Health Perspect. 2020 Jan;128(1):17002. doi: 10.1289/EHP5221. Epub 2020 Jan 15. PMID: 31939680; PMCID: PMC7015622

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