Is Vitamin A in Sunscreens Dangerous?

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Federal researchers have been given the green light to pursue the effects of retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A found in two-fifths of U.S. sunscreens. Reseachers believe that retinyl palmitate may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions when applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight.

The panel’s action is likely to have a significant impact on the U.S. sunscreen industry, which adds vitamin A to 41 percent of its sunscreens, ostensibly to combat aging. Among the popular brands that contain vitamin A are Coppertone, Banana Boat, Panama Jack, Hawaiian Tropic, and Neutrogena.

More than 200 sunscreens from 44 companies listed vitamin A or retinyl palmitate on their labels in 2010, according to Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) analysis of beach and sport sunscreens with SPF ratings of 15 or higher.

Two manufacturers – Mexitan and Dr. T’s Supergoop! – responded within weeks by marketing new, vitamin A-free formulas and even more sunscreen makers can be expected to offer vitamin A-free products for the 2011 summer season.

To prevent an overexposure to retinyl palmitate:

  • Buy a sunscreen that doesn’t include it or Vitamin A as one of its ingredients.
  • If you have to use a sunscreen with retinyl palmitate, be sure to apply the sunscreen away from sunlight and at least 30 minutes before getting out into the sun.

Be aware that this is a compound also found in several skin creams and cosmetics. Make sure to read your labels carefully before choosing.

Visit the Environmental Working Group’s website for more information.

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