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We have been told time and again to use sunscreen lotions before stepping out in the sun. We have also been told to apply sunscreens before venturing into a swimming pool and also when indoors. Sure, application of sunscreen lotions is essential to protect the skin against the harsh UV rays of the sun, to prevent tanning, to keep the skin moisturized, and also to prevent skin cancer.
But... wait! Are sunscreen lotions even safe? Along with being aware about the positives of anything that we apply on the skin, it is also essential to know the negatives, so that we can use them judiciously.
Here, we bring to you 5 less-known facts and the side effects of using sunscreen lotions in the long term:
1. Leads to allergic reactions
Sunscreens include some chemicals in them such as Para Amino Benzoic Acid (PABA) that can cause some allergic reactions on the skin such as redness, inflammation, rashes and itching. Irrespective of your skin type, PABA reacts when applied on sensitive skin. PABA is a common ingredient used in most sunscreens and it can cause a high rate of allergic reactions. Some of you may also be allergic to certain fragrances and preservatives used in the sunscreens. When purchasing sunscreens, check the label and ensure that they are 'hypoallergenic'. Sunscreens containing zinc oxide are said to be less allergic. Get a patch test done before using the sunscreen.
2. Can worsen acne
Certain chemicals in sunscreens can worsen acne if you have an acne-prone skin. Moreover, people with sensitive skin are susceptible to suffer from severe redness, blisters or rashes, as the chemicals used in sunscreens may not be designed to suit your skin conditions. When choosing sunscreen, go for sunscreens that are less greasy, and the one that is ideal for your skin type. It is better to avoid using heavy sunscreens on the face, as they can get too heavy.
3. Causes pain and irritation in the hairy areas
Sunscreens whether you apply them in the form of ointments, sprays, creams or lotions, can cause pain and irritation in hairy areas at times. Sunscreens can lead to itchiness on the skin, which later develop into bumpy red rashes. This is because it can also turn into pus-filled blisters around the hair follicles. With the market being flooded with sunscreens of various popular brands, it may be hard for you to pick a brand that is ideal for you. However, it is said that it is the gel sunscreen that is best for all skin types, particularly for the hairy areas.
4. May increase the risk of cancer
Sunscreens contain ingredients that have oestrogenic effects on cells that induce breast cancer. When used on a regular basis, some sunscreens may alter the oestrogen levels in the blood. Therefore, you should avoid the use of chemical sunscreens on your children, as their delicate skin can absorb chemicals easily.
Certain forms of Vitamin A found in sunscreen lotions, namely, retinyl palmitate (combination of retinol or vitamin A and palmitic acid) can be a cause of concern. This is because, when exposed to sun's UV rays, retinol compounds break down and produce free radicals that are toxic to the cells. They can damage DNA and cause cancer.
5. Can lead to eye irritation
If sunscreen gets into the eye, it can lead to pain and irritation, burning sensation and sensitivity to light. In fact, chemical sunscreens can also cause blindness. Therefore, be very cautious when applying sunscreen lotions and use it carefully on the cheeks, chin and nose. In case the lotion enters your eyes, seek medical attention immediately.
Some Precautions To Avoid The Side Effects Of Sunscreen Lotions:
• Stop the use of sunscreen immediately, if it causes redness or irritation.
• Do a patch test on a small area of your skin before using a sunscreen lotion for the first time.
• A sunscreen will act for only two hours. So, if you are out in the sun for prolonged periods of time, you may have to reapply every 2 hours.
• When using sunscreens for your children, go for sunscreen with natural ingredients rather than chemical-based, and choose them wisely,
• Do not use sunscreen on babies less than one year of age.
• Try to choose oil-free, non-comodogenic sunscreens if you have oily, sensitive skin.
• Before trying out a new sunscreen, talk to your doctor in case you are allergic to any of its ingredients like PABA or aminobenzoic acid or to sulfa drugs, or in case you have other skin allergies or skin problems. This is because sunscreens may also contain some inactive ingredients, which can cause allergic reactions in some people.
• You should know that the sunscreens that you use for your face and that you apply on the rest of your body are different. There are specific sunscreen lotions for the face, and specific lotions for the body, and you should pick the one that you need, because your body skin type is different from the skin on your face. Using the same lotion on your body and face can lead to severe skin problems.
• It is important to know that common sunscreen components such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, octocrylene work on the UVB rays of the sun, but they do not have an effect on the UVA rays. In comparison, the UVA rays of the sun are more dangerous to the skin than the UVB rays. Therefore, despite coating your skin with the best sunscreen lotions, sometimes, they do not show effective results.
As you have now seen, chemical-based sunscreen lotions do come with their share of side effects. Using natural products as sunscreens that are devoid of chemicals is a safer alternative. Alternatively, if you must use sunscreen lotions, go for the ones with titanium oxide or zinc oxide, to minimize allergic reactions and oestrogenic effects.