UPDATE: An FDA study found a form of vitamin A, that’s used in sunscreens may actually speed up skin damage. Forty-one percent of over 500 sunscreens contain vitamin A, or retinyl palmitate, due to its popularity for preventing wrinkles in cosmetics. However, preliminary data showed even low doses of this additive may be unsafe.

When applied to the skin, retinyl palmitate reacted with sunlight and increased the development of skin tumors and lesions. This is disturbing since sunscreens are formulated and promoted as protection against sun damage. Here’s what the scientists say about vitamin A in sunscreen.

The FDA report said that the ideal sunscreen would completely block the UV rays that cause sunburn, immune suppression, and damaging free radicals. It would remain effective on the skin for several hours and not form harmful ingredients when degraded by UV light. Currently there is no sunscreen that meets all of these criteria.

Some of the top tested daily mineral (non-chemical) sunscreen brands that do not contain vitamin A can be accessed on the EWG’s website here.

The full list and details of the best (and worst) sunscreens can be found on the EWG’s website.

Karen’s Fit Tip: Some plant-based ingredients, such as avocado oil, shea butter, and carrot oil, contain carotenes, which are converted to vitamin A in the body. Currently, there is no evidence that these sources of vitamin A lead to the growth of tumors or lesions as retinal palmitate has demonstrated.

Karen Owoc

I’m a Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Clinical Exercise Physiologist certified by the American College of Sports Medicine, KRON 4's weekly health expert, speaker, and author of my book on functional longevity, “Athletes in Aprons: The Nutrition Playbook to Break 100".

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