Tags: Health Topics | Cancer | sunscreen | skin cancer | sunbathing | safety | uv rays

Two Thirds of Sunscreen Products Provide Inferior Protection

a pair of sunbathing women in bikinis pass a bottle of sunscreen between each other
(Friso Gentsch/AP)

By    |   Thursday, 23 May 2019 08:26 PM

With summer approaching, Americans will be spending lots of time outdoors grilling and chilling. But is the sunscreen they are using safe? At least one environmental advocacy group is casting a giant shadow on the market, claiming not only are the majority of products ineffective, they might also be harmful to your health.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) just released their 13th Annual Guide to Sunscreens which rates the safety and efficacy of more than 1300 SPF products including sunscreens, daily moisturizers, and lip balms. The EWG researchers found two-thirds of the products tested offer inferior protection or include possibly harmful ingredients like oxybenzone which can cause allergic reactions and disrupt human hormones.

The more than 250 products that did make the grade were those containing the active ingredients of zinc oxide and titanium oxide, mineral-based compounds that protect the skin from both UVA and UVB rays with no harmful side effects.

Carla Burns, research analyst at EWG tells Newsmax that products with super high SPF, or sun protection factor, often mislead the public into thinking that more is better.

"The SPF value on a product only refers to its ability to protect the skin from UVB rays," she says. "But it may not adequately shield the skin from ultraviolet A rays that cause aging skin and possibly melanoma. High SPF values, those greater than 50, can mislead people into thinking they can stay out in the sun for longer periods without reapplying, and that they are completely protected from both sunburn and long-term skin damage.

"Our understanding of the dangers associated with UVA exposure is increasing and of great concern," she adds. "It is critical for a sunscreen to provide balanced, broad spectrum protection. Products with zinc oxide especially protect well against UVA and UVB rays."

Babies and young children are especially vulnerable to sun damage adds Burns. "Just one blistering sunburn early in life can double the risk of a person developing melanoma later in life."

This year's easy-to-use list includes a list of the best-rated sunscreens for kids.

The American Academy of Dermatology recently warned consumers should continue to use sunscreen given the body of evidence that shows how sunscreen can prevent cancer.

"The FDA is asking for more data on certain ingredients to find out to what extent the skin absorbs these ingredients and if absorbing sunscreen has any effect on the skin or body," AAD president George J. Hruza says. "This does not mean that the FDA is expressing concern about sunscreen ingredients, nor have they concluded that any of the sunscreen ingredients sold in the U.S. are unsafe."

The EWG counters that is exactly why it is important to choose mineral-based products, since the FDA has yet to prove chemicals used in other types of sunscreens are indeed safe long term.

While sunscreen is an important part of reducing your risk of skin cancer, it is only part of a sun safety routine. The EWG researchers emphasize that people should also protect their skin by choosing clothes, hats, and sunglasses with adequate coverage, staying in the shade ands avoiding the peak midday sun.

Other tips include:

  • Check your products in EWG's sunscreen database and avoid those with harmful additives.

  • Avoid products with oxybenzone.

  • Steer clear of products with SPF higher than 50. High SPF values do not necessarily provide increased UVA protection and might fool you into thinking you are safe from sun damage.

  • Avoid sprays. These popular products pose inhalation problems.

  • Stay away from retinyl palmitate. Government studies link the use of retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A, to the formation of skin tumors and lesions when its applied to sun-exposed skin.

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With summer approaching, Americans will be spending lots of time outdoors grilling and chilling. But is the sunscreen they are using safe?
sunscreen, skin cancer, sunbathing, safety, uv rays, exposure
Thursday, 23 May 2019 08:26 PM
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