Sunscreen Chemicals Can End up in Your Blood

According to a 2010 study entitled “Vitamin D Deficiency- An Ignored Epidemic,” over a billion people worldwide are deficient in vitamin D [1]. Certain activities such as working indoors, wearing extensive clothing, regularly using sunblock, or consciously avoiding the sun can raise the risk of vitamin D deficiency [1]. Yet, of all these activities, wearing sunscreen seems to be the most common, consciously performed task. In my opinion, if you are not at risk of burning from sun exposure, such as spending hours at the beach, sunblock is rarely needed. However, wearing sunscreen every day, which is somehow recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology regardless of whether or if you are spending extended time outside [2], can lead to the toxic substances in sunscreen ending up in your bloodstream, as noted by a recent study. This article will be a review of that study and the toxins in sunscreen.

Study Review

The study in question was published May 6, 2019, and is entitled “Effect of Sunscreen Application Under Maximal Use Conditions on Plasma Concentration of Sunscreen Active Ingredients” [3]. In the study, the researchers were determined to investigate how much of the active ingredients in sunscreen make their way into the wearer’s bloodstream.

The study investigated the four most common ingredients in sunscreen, avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, and ecamsule, and the researchers had the participants wear the maximum amount recommended by manufactures for seven days. After a week, 30 blood samples were collected, and the levels of the four ingredients were measured. The researchers found a surprising amount of these chemicals ended up in the patient’s bloodstream.

The researchers noted, “In this preliminary study involving healthy volunteers, application of 4 commercially available sunscreens under maximal use conditions resulted in plasma concentrations that exceeded the threshold established by the FDA for potentially waiving some nonclinical toxicology studies for sunscreens” [3]. Ironically, even though this FDA-lead study found higher-than-acceptable levels of these toxic ingredients were entering the bloodstream, the FDA still recommended using sunblock religiously [3].

It is also imperative to note all four ingredients entered the bloodstream at levels above the “safe” limit 24 hours after application. So, imagine the ramifications of using sunscreen every year after year. A 2008 study using urine sample data from 2002-2003 found 96.8% of the urine samples collected measurable levels of oxybenzone [4], so if that data was from 2002-2003, I cannot even imagine what it would be now.

Dr. David Strauss, one of the co-authors of the study published this year, said in an interview with Time, “This supports the need for further studies to understand the clinical significance of this. We really have a paucity of data on whether there are adverse health effects of these ingredients or not” [5].

While Strauss’ comments show more concern for the new information and call for further studies, Dr. David Leffell, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology, gave a not-so-surprising statement to CNN saying, “Studies need to be performed to evaluate this finding and determine whether there are true medical implications to absorption of certain ingredients. [In the meantime, people should] continue to be aggressive about sun protection” [6].


According to the Environmental Working Group, oxybenzone causes severe adverse effects, including allergies, hormone disruption, and cell damage [7]. Other studies have also linked oxybenzone to other health issues, including “significantly lower” testosterone levels in young boys [8], reduced sperm count [9], and altered male hormones such as testosterone, estradiol, and inhibin B [10]. In women, oxybenzone has been linked to endometriosis [11], shorter pregnancies, and lower male birth weights [12].

Not only has oxybenzone been linked to human health issues, but oxybenzone is also harmful to sea creatures, including horseshoe crabs, and researchers warn the chemical’s use can be detrimental to coral reefs, which are already being threatened [13]. As a result of oxybenzone’s harm towards coral reefs, Hawaiian lawmakers have banned the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate [14] [15].

Irrational Sunscreen Recommendations

Consumer Reports issued illogical recommendations regarding the use of sunscreen. Within the week before the 2019 study was completed, Consumer Reports released its Best Sunscreens report, but all the sunscreens recommended contained oxybenzone [16] [17]. Ironically, one of the sunscreens recommended as “Best Lotion” was La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Melt-in Sunscreen Milk.

While Consumer Reports recommended this lotion, Environmental Working Group has a list of concerns published about this product, including “Endocrine disruption, Organ system toxicity” and “Biochemical or cellular level changes, Multiple, additive exposure sources, Contamination concerns” [18].

What is even more ironic is that Don Huber, the director of product safety at Consumer Reports, acknowledged people might have their concerns about sunscreens containing oxybenzone. Huber stated, “While we recognize there are concerns with oxybenzone, we know that sunscreen is a critical part of an overall sun protection plan. It’s proven to prevent sunburn, and can lower your risk of skin cancer and reduce skin aging, and our testing is based on a product’s ability to filter UV rays” [17].

While Consumer Reports did also recommend sunscreens, which did not contain oxybenzone, they included avobenzone instead, but according to a 2018 study, avobenzone was linked to decreased male fertility [19].

New Requirements

The FDA is also proposing new regulations concerning sunscreen to make sure that “sunscreens are safe and effective” [20]. The FDA will be evaluating the safety of 16 active sunscreen ingredients. Of those 16 ingredients, only two have been deemed safe: non-nano-sized zinc oxide and titanium oxide. For 12 of the 16 ingredients, the FDA states they do not have enough data to come to any conclusions, and the FDA calls for a “rigorous assessment” of these ingredients.

For the remaining two ingredients of the 16, the FDA has deemed PABA and trolamine salicylate to be unsafe. Other requirements would make sunscreens 15 SPF or higher required to be both UVA and UVB protective, not just UVB as is currently the case.

Other Negative Effects of Sunscreen Ingredients

While we have discussed the adverse effects of oxybenzone, as noted above, I have stated there was a 2018 study which found avobenzone was linked to decreased male fertility. That study evaluated 29 sunscreen chemicals allowed in the United States or the European Union. The researchers found of the 29 ingredients, 13 of them reduced male fertility by affecting calcium signaling in sperm, and of those 13, eight are approved for use in the United States [19].

The approved ingredients include the following [19]:

  • Avobenzone
  • Homosalate
  • Meradimate
  • Octisalate (also known as octyl salicylate)
  • Octinoxate (octyl methoxycinnamate)
  • Octocrylene
  • Oxybenzone (also called benzophenone-3)
  • Padimate O


Niels Skakkebaek, a senior investigator at the University of Copenhagen in Demark and a researcher at the Copenhagen University Hospital, said, “These results are of concern and might explain in part why unexplained infertility is so prevalent” [21].

If you are interested in learning how to increase male fertility, check out my article entitled "How to Increase Male Fertility."

Safer Sunscreen Alternatives

If you do need a sunscreen, look for a sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or titanium oxide, and make sure they are not nano-sized. The zinc oxide is going to be the better option of the two.

However, remember you do need sun for your health. If you are going to the beach and are at risk of burning, give your skin and body the chance of making some vitamin D before you lather up.

If you have any questions about any of our products, please call our office at 800.726.1834.
























[22] Article adapted from with additional research