Is Sunscreen Dangerous? A Dermatologist Weighs In on the Recent Troubling Study

It’s becoming more and more difficult to figure out what to believe about anything – even something as basic as sunscreen. This is partly because companies, and some individuals, have figured out how to use the power of suggestion and incomplete (or false) information, to direct our thought patterns in favor of, or against, certain products. Some news stories that popped up this summer might lead you to believe that there’s a troubling new safety concern with sunscreen. The stories were centered around a single study published in a lesser-known journal (Chemosphere). Journalists took partial truths from the study and amplified them into more partial truths. The echo effect! And voila – unfounded hysteria!

So, is sunscreen dangerous?

What the study really said was that one ingredient (avobenzone) in some sunscreens could, when exposed to chlorine and light in a swimming pool, convert into a small amount of a toxic chemical (which would then be diluted in a very large swimming pool). Note that this was not tested in an actual swimming pool. It was tested in a lab under conditions – NOT at all like the real world.

So, how should you respond?

I give my safety tips, as well as my reasons NOT to abandon sunscreen on my latest piece for Web MD here: Is Sunscreen Dangerous? A Dermatologist Weighs In – Web MD

If after you’re done reading, you’re in the market for a great sunscreen, I have the brands I personally use and recommend to patients, on my shop here.

Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

Ask me your skincare question!

Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin. I believe that consumers deserve a medically trained and unbiased skincare advocate.

  • All our content is written and researched by myself.
  • My medical office in Seattle has treated thousands of patients for 15+ years.
  • This site is not affiliated or financially tied to any product, treatment or device.
Ask Me Something
SkinTour Skincare
One of the best investments in your skin is your daily skincare. Why? Because you can prevent many problems with blotchy skin color, lack of glow, texture, some types of acne, and fine lines with good skincare products. You can also correct some of these problems with effective skincare products. Great skincare is often more expensive because quality ingredients are expensive. Some companies spend on research/development which benefits all of us and adds to the cost. Are they worth it? In general - yes! I have handpicked some of what I consider to be the best skin care products, and offer them for sale on SkinTour's shop. This is based on my team and I's testing and research at our clinic. Many of the products are in my own regimen. What could be better than using skin care products a dermatologist uses?!