Researchers found that there could be a correlation between sunscreen and skin damage, but those are far less threatening than the damage that sun does to the skin. Sunscreen protects our skin from harmful UV rays and lowers our chance of getting sunburns (sever burns), sun spots, and skin cancer. There is a link below that explains the research in detail.
Though this answer cites the same article as my answer, the statement that “those [damages from sunscreen] are far less threatening than the damage that sun does to the skin” is anything but true. The conclusions of the research were: (a) that sunscreen does little or no harm when reapplied frequently and (b) that sunscreen magnifies the harms of UV radiation when used improperly.
Thus, it’s not a matter of weighing harms of sunscreen versus the harms of UV radiation (as this answer seems to suggest).
The simple answer is yes, sunscreen can damage your skin under certain circumstances. Using sunscreen is perfectly safe as long as you reapply it frequently enough; however, if one does not reapply often, chemicals common to virtually all sunscreens can cause damage when exposed to UV radiation.
Here’s the science of it. UV radiation is bad because it causes molecules in your skin to generate harmful compounds known as “reactive oxygen species” or ROS. Sunscreen contains special molecules known as “UV filters” which help block out UV radiation and thus stop the formation of ROS. However, these UV filters eventually penetrate to deeper levels of the skin, leaving the epidermis–the outermost layer–vulnerable to UV radiation. Research has found that the very same UV filters which block UV rays–and thus lessen the production of ROS–when on the epidermis actually generate ROS themselves when exposed to UV radiation. Researchers note that these filters only start producing ROS after they have penetrated into deeper levels of the skin and that ROS is not produced when there is a fresh layer of UV filters–sunscreen–on the epidermis.
So, in short: sunscreen is good for you and you should continue to use it, but it can damage your skin if you do not apply it frequently enough.
Sunscreen also has many chemicals that could be harmful for your health. For example, sunscreens often have free radical generators, strong estrogenic activity, and synthetic chemicals.
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