On hot summer days, sunscreen is indispensable. But the lotion, which is supposed to protect you, can sometimes even be dangerous.
Kassel – On a beach holiday, in the mountains or even at the first summer temperatures, sunscreen is a must. Many still have opened sunscreen from last year on their shelves that are actually too full to dispose of. Therefore, the sunscreen is often used up before new ones are fetched.
But that, as the Apotheken-Umschau writes, is not a good idea. Manufacturers guarantee the effectiveness of the sunscreen until the specified best-before date. If this is achieved, the UV protection does not disappear immediately, but there is a risk that the UV protection is no longer adequately guaranteed. Therefore, experts generally advise to buy a new pack.
Potentially harmful substances in sunscreen: octocrylene and benzophenone
The fact that the sunscreen no longer provides sufficient protection is due to the oxygen that gets into packages that have already been opened. Dermatologist Prof. Dr. Eckhard Breitbart, an expert at the German Cancer Aid and chairman of the Working Group on Dermatological Prevention (ADP), explainedthe cause to Apotheken-Umschau. As a result, the resulting oxidations lead to changes in the ingredients and thus the protective function can no longer be maintained correctly.
Carcinogenic substance in old sunscreens – according to the study (symbolic image) © Christoph Soeder/ dpa
Particular care should also be taken with products with the chemical UV filter octocrylene. As a study from France published in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology shows, the molecule benzophenone, which is classified as possibly carcinogenic, can form in it if stored for a longer period of time.
Researchers examined 17 sunscreen products from the point of view of how high the benzophenone content is. In 16 of the products tested, the research team found significantly increased benzophenone concentrations. Octocrylene and benzophenone have long been controversial. Benzophenone may only be used as a UV filter in the European Union if a limit value is observed.
To ensure protection from UV rays: sunscreen must be stored properly
"Until now, the use of octocrylene was considered harmless, provided that patients did not have a photoallergy to ketotifen (an antiallergic drug). However, this research shows that its use should be reconsidered, as the presence of benzophenone cannot be ruled out," explains Professor Dr. med. Peter Elsner, Director of the Clinic for Skin Diseases at the University Hospital Jena and Public Relations Officer of the DDG.
Consequently, the correct storage of sunscreen plays a crucial role. It is therefore better to dispose of sunscreens from the previous year if they have been frequently exposed to high heat, such as in the beach bag or in the car – even if the best-before date has not yet passed.
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Sunscreen: What you should keep in mind when opening tubes
- Note the date of first use: In order not to lose track of when exactly you opened the sunscreen, it is advisable to write the date of opening on the tube with a waterproof pen. A concrete indication of the minimum shelf life is rarely found on sun protection. The reason: cosmetic products in the European Union only have to have a best-before date if they do not have a shelf life of more than 30 months, according to the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety.
- A lot helps a lot: Sun protection should not be used sparingly. Experts advise to rely on fragrance and fragrance-free products and to make sure that they protect against UVA and UVB rays. The products only provide the promised sun protection factor if they are applied sufficiently thickly to the skin.
- Pay attention to the ingredient list: If "Octocrylene" is listed in the ingredient list below, you should stop using older sunscreen as a precaution.
- Check old sunscreen: Check opened sunscreen for smell, appearance and consistency. An unusual smell or a change in color are important indicators that the sunscreen should no longer be used.
- Sunscreen with natural cosmetics seal: Only mineral filters such as titanium dioxide (INCI name for titanium dioxide) or zinc oxide (INCI name for zinc oxide) are allowed in these products. These are chemically stable, so you can continue to use the sunscreen as long as it does not smell or change its consistency.
- Source: Apotheken-Umschau, Verbraucherzentrale Nordrhein-Westfalen
In the EU, the UV filter octocrylene is approved. It is added not only in some conventional sun creams but also in some day creams, especially anti-aging creams.
A formula will help you choose the right sunscreen. But sunscreen alone does not protect against the risk of skin cancer. Further precautionary measures such as sun-friendly clothing and avoiding the sun, especially during midday, are advisable. If you have been in the sun for too long, there are a few things you can do to alleviate sunburn.