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Tags: sunscreen | environmental working group | guide | effectiveness | safety

About 75 Percent of Sunscreens Are Not Effective or Contain Harmful Ingredients

hands holding a sunscreen bottle and squirting sunscreen into other hand

By    |   Thursday, 05 May 2022 11:50 AM

More than 5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, making it America’s most common cancer. Fortunately, skin cancer is also one of the most preventable cancers according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.  It is critical to use the best sun protection products to ensure safety, however, according to the Environmental Working Group, it is often a case of buyer beware.

The EWG just released its 16th annual Guide to Sunscreens, finding that about 75% of more than 1,850 products rate poorly for skin protection from the sun or have ingredients that could be harmful to health.

EWG’s guide rates the safety and efficacy of products advertising sun protection, such as recreational sunscreens, daily-use moisturizers with SPF, and lip balms with SPF. Only one out of four products reviewed met their standards for adequate protection and did not contain worrisome ingredients like oxybenzone, a potential hormone-disrupting chemical.

“Some ingredients commonly found in sunscreens have been linked to both human and environmental concerns,” said Carla Burns, EWG senior director for cosmetic science. “We slather these ingredients on our skin, but many of these chemicals haven't been adequately tested. EWG has been advocating for the Food and Drug Administration to review these ingredients for 16 years.”

The guide’s best-scoring sunscreens contain zinc oxide, titanium dioxide or both, because they have fewer health concerns and offer good sun protection. Zinc oxide is stable in the sun, provides protection from UVA and UVB rays, and offers good broad-spectrum protection.

EWG’s list of recommended sunscreens includes brands at a range of price points sold across the U.S. at pharmacies and popular retail stores.

“On the bright side, more than 280 sunscreens measure up to our rigorous standards,” said Emily Spilman, a science analyst with EWG’s Healthy Living Science team. “EWG’s guide is one of the only tools available to help consumers find products that provide adequate protection and are made without ingredients that may pose health concerns.”

Besides containing potentially hazardous ingredients, some sunscreens do not offer adequate protection. In October 2021, EWG scientists found many products offer just a quarter of their stated SPF protection against ultraviolet A rays, which increase the risk of skin cancer.

“Most of the products we tested reduced UV radiation by only half what we expect from looking at the SPF on the label,” said David Andrews, a senior scientist at EWG and lead author of the peer-reviewed research.

EWG scientists found sunscreens often fell far short of the claims of protection against UVA rays, which cause aging, immune system harms and greater cancer risks. On average, sunscreens tested in a laboratory, but not on people, provided a meager 24% of UVA protection, compared to the labeled SPF value.

Most sunscreens reviewed by EWG also failed to live up to boasts of protection related to UVB rays, which are largely responsible for sunburn. “The lack of adequate broad-spectrum protection is a public health problem,” Andrews said.

Once you find the right product, it’s also important to apply the correct sunscreen properly, says Dr. Anat Lebow, of Lebow Dermatology  in New York. “To protect your skin, remember to reapply sunscreen every couple of hours especially after sweating, swimming, or toweling off.”   Experts recommend choosing a mineral sunscreen with a broad-spectrum label and an SPF between 30 and 50.

Sunscreen is only one tool in the sun safety toolbox, say EWG experts. Proper sun protection includes protective clothing, like a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt, a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses with UV protection, and shade.

Here are more tips for choosing better sunscreens and staying safe in the sun:

  • Avoid products with oxybenzone, which is absorbed through the skin in large amounts and can affect hormone levels.
  • Stay away from vitamin A in sunscreens. Government studies link the use of retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A, to the formation of skin tumors and lesions when it’s applied to sun-exposed skin.
  • Steer clear of sunscreens with SPF values above 50, which may not give increased UVA protection and can fool people into thinking they’re safer from sun damage.
  • Avoid sprays. These popular products make it difficult to apply an adequate and even coating on skin, especially in windy conditions. They also pose inhalation concerns.
  • Avoid intense sun exposure during peak hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Check products against EWG’s Guide to Sunscreens and avoid those with harmful additives.

Shoppers on the go can download EWG’s Healthy Living App to get ratings and safety information on sunscreens and other personal care products. EWG’s sunscreen label decoder can also help consumers decipher sunscreen labels.

© 2022 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.

More than 5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, making it America's most common cancer. Fortunately, skin cancer is also one of the most preventable cancers according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. It is critical to use the best sun protection...
sunscreen, environmental working group, guide, effectiveness, safety
Thursday, 05 May 2022 11:50 AM
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