▶ Watch Video: What to consider when picking sunscreen

Labor Day weekend may be over, but summer isn’t yet — and even as temperatures cool down, it’s important to keep protecting your skin from the sun. But do you need to be worried about toxins in sunscreen?

Experts say concerns around sunscreen doing more harm than good are often misguided — and potentially dangerous if it leads to people skipping SPF altogether. 

“We know the sun and UV rays result in photoaging, sun spots, wrinkles and increased risk of skin cancer. Sunscreen helps protect against these effects,” explains Dr. Samer Jaber, a board-certified dermatologist at Washington Square Dermatology in New York. “When you are outside, please practice sun safe behaviors.”

Melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, causes more than 8,000 deaths per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One of the best prevention methods: wearing broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, advises the American Academy of Dermatology.

So how did this skincare staple start becoming the focus of concern? 

The first misconception has to do with the label “chemical” sunscreens. While reports on the risks of chemicals like PFAS may have primed people to view the word “chemicals” as “bad,” Jaber explains in this case it simply describes one of two types of sunscreen: chemical and mineral, which are categorized based on their active ingredients. 

“Active ingredients in chemical sunscreens include chemical ultraviolet (UV) filters, which have organic or carbon-containing compounds, whereas mineral sunscreens have physical UV filters,” Jaber explains.

Chemical sunscreens work like a sponge, absorbing radiation from UV rays. Mineral sunscreens work like a shield that deflects rays by sitting on the surface of your skin.

The main ingredients in mineral sunscreens are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which are classified as “safe and effective” by the Food and Drug Administration.

Things get more complicated when you look at specific ingredients of chemical sunscreens like oxybenzone, which has been shown to be detected in the body even weeks after use. 

Still, as CBS News’ Nikki Battiste reported earlier this year, some doctors say that doesn’t mean they are dangerous, but the Food and Drug Administration says there is not enough data yet to determine if 12 of the most common chemical sunscreens can be deemed “generally regarded as safe and effective,” or GRASE.

In 2021, the FDA maintained “additional data is needed to show that these sunscreens are GRASE.”

Lack of more recent action by the FDA has prompted some Americans to seek their SPF products from countries in Europe or Asia where these products are regulated differently and where more ingredient and filter options are available. 

While chemical sunscreens are considered more effective if you plan to swim or sweat, you can always opt for mineral sunscreen instead.

“For patients concerned about the potential risk of chemical sunscreen absorption by the body, I always recommend mineral sunscreens zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, as they are considered ‘GRASE’ by the FDA,” Jaber says. “The physical mineral sunscreens zinc oxide and titanium dioxide have not been shown to be absorbed in the bloodstream in a high enough concentration to affect the body,”

Mineral sunscreens are also more tolerable for those with sensitive skin, he adds, so they “may be a better choice for those with acne, rosacea or eczema.”