This study — showing how potentially toxic sunscreen ingredients don't just stay on the skin but can be measured in the blood — has been big news this week.
In this preliminary study involving healthy volunteers, application of 4 commercially available sunscreens under maximal use conditions resulted in plasma concentrations that exceeded the threshold established by the FDA for potentially waiving some nonclinical toxicology studies for sunscreens. The systemic absorption of sunscreen ingredients supports the need for further studies to determine the clinical significance of these findings.
I must first express my sincere concern for consumer health & safety, and would of course encourage everyone to read ingredient labels and research any product you are putting in or on your body.
From an āyurvedic perspective, however, this is really exciting research!
The practice of abhyanga — the topical application of medicated oil — is a highly revered treatment in the āyurvedic paradigm, demonstrating myriad potential benefits depending on who uses what type of oil when and how.
Here we have lab work showing active ingredients were measurable in the blood after "two milligrams of sunscreen per 1 cm2 was applied to 75% of body surface area 4 times per day for 4 days."
If this is true, then it seems safe to speculate that the active compounds of a medicinal oil would also be absorbed into the bloodstream and impact bodily health from there.
Further research is required to determine the biomedical mechanism by which the substance makes its way from the epidermis into blood plasma, although āyurveda's systemic understanding of dhātu agni already provides a viable conceptual framework.
Indeed, āyurveda describes a functional relationship between the skin and blood plasma.
Rasa dhatu can be roughly equated to what we call plasma (also: lymph), and its byproduct is known to be the skin. This relationship is, of course, bidirectional — that which affects the blood affects the skin, and vice versa. This is why we often treat skin conditions through internal means, offering raktashodhan (blood cleansing) herbs.
For anyone concerned about potential toxicity from sunblock, abhyanga is an excellent mechanism for moving lymph and improving the overall cleanliness and quality of your blood and circulation.
Remember: your body comes with billions of years of evolutionary resilience as a standard feature. This means it has robust mechanisms by which to deflect, dilute and discharge toxic compounds. The path of least resistance for vibrant health is to simply facilitate and encourage these inborn healing processes.
To learn more about your personal āyurvedic constitution and gain individualized suggestions to resolve health concerns and maximize your sense of well-being, please reach out! Your 20-minute introductory consultation with me is free.