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80 Percent of Sunscreens Don't Work or Contain Harmful Ingredients: Report

By    |   Friday, 22 May 2015 09:23 AM

A new study finds 80 percent of sunscreens on the market don’t work as effectively as makers claim and/or contain potentially harmful ingredients.

The analysis, published this week by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG), found four out of five of 1,700 sunscreens, lip balms, and moisturizers tested by the advocacy group don’t live up to their promises.

The EWG’s 2015 Guide to Sunscreens contends the vast majority of available sun-protection products offer “inferior sun protection or contain worrisome ingredients like oxybenzone and vitamin A.”

Oxybenzone can penetrate the skin, enter the blood stream, and mimic the action of estrogen, disrupting the hormone system. Some studies suggest adding vitamin A to the skin may heighten sun sensitivity and speed development of skin tumors and lesions.

Several dozen sun-protection products earned a spot on the EWG report’s “Hall of Shame” because they don’t deliver on their promises and/or contain potentially risky chemicals. Another 217 products earned the organization’s highest ratings for safety and effectiveness.

Best sunscreens: Among the products deemed best were those made by John Masters Organics, Seventh Generation, Adorable Baby, Alba Botanica, Allure, Blue Lizard, Bull Frog, Burt's Bees, Earth's Best, Nature's Gate, Raw Elements USA, Tropical Sands, True Natural, and Vanicream.

Worst sunscreens: Among the sunscreen sprays, lotions, and baby products rated worst were those manufactured by Neutrogena, Banana Boat, Coppertone, NO-AD, and Ocean Potion.

While the EWG report was critical of many sunscreen manufacturers, the organization singled out Neutrogena for “advertising hype [that] is further from reality than any other major brand” studied.

“Neutrogena’s ‘Pure & Free Baby’ sunscreen claims ‘special protection from the sun and irritating chemicals’ and ‘hypoallergenic,’ but it contains a preservative called methylisothiazolinone, or MI, that some researchers call a potent allergen and that is deemed unsafe in Europe,” the report concludes.

In addition, more than 80 percent of Neutrogena’s products contain oxybenzone and one-third contain retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A linked to skin damage, the EWG report notes.

But Peggy Ballman, spokeswoman for the J&J Consumer Group, which includes Neutrogena, says the company takes issue with those claims and maintained the firm's products are safe, effective, and meet tough federal health regulations.

“We share EWG’s goal of raising awareness about safe sun habits and sunscreens, but disagree with their conclusions about Neutrogena sunscreen products,” Ballman tells Newsmax Health.

“Contrary to EWG’s claims, the global safety profile of the ingredients we use is comprehensive and strong in supporting their safe use, and supported by the U.S Food and Drug Administration and other external safety experts.”

She also disputes EWG’s claims that Neutrogena and many other sunscreen manufacturers are wrong to claim their products are superior because they have high SPF levels — of SPF 70 or even SPF 100+.

The FDA says there’s no protective benefit in products with more than SPF 50 and higher ratings give users a false sense of protection. In addition, SPF refers only to protection against UVB rays that burn the skin — not UVA rays, which accelerate skin aging, suppress the immune system, and can cause skin cancer.

But Ballman argues: “Our scientists believe that SPF values higher than 50 provide the highest level of sun protection for everyone, as studies show people routinely under apply sunscreens.

“We are committed to education about skin cancer and sun safety, but consumers should be aware that EWG test methods lack the rigor of peer-reviewed, scientific evaluation, and they should talk with their health care professionals if they have questions about sunscreen products and protection.”

Publication of the EWG report comes as a new survey in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology suggests the vast majority of Americans rarely apply sunscreen when spending time in the sun.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found only 14 percent of men surveyed say they regularly use sunscreen, compared to 30 percent of women, even though skin cancer rates are rising.

About 3.5 million people in the U.S. will develop skin cancer this year, and nearly 74,000 of these cases will be melanoma — three times as many cases as in the 1970s, federal health statistics show.

EWG scientists and other health experts offer the following tips for choosing a sunscreen and reducing sun exposure:
  • SPF considerations. Buy sunscreens with a broad spectrum SPF (sun protection factor) level of between 15 and 50. Be sure to follow instructions on how to apply and reapply.
  • Read labels. Choose products with natural ingredients that block UVA and UVB rays, such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Avoid those with oxybenzone, methylisothiazolinone, and retinyl palmitate (a form of vitamin A).
  • Be wary of spray sunscreens. Spray-on sunscreens are easier to apply than lotions and creams, but the fumes can be dangerous when inhaled, can ignite if they are near an open flame (such as a grill), and don’t cover skin completely.
  • Limit sun exposure. Spending long hours in the sun can put you at risk for sunburn, skin, cancer, and wrinkles. Go outdoors in early morning or late afternoon. Bring an umbrella to the beach. Find a tree to picnic under. Seek shade from outdoor shelters, cabanas, and other structures, wherever possible.
  • Cover up. Wear clothing and a hat to cover exposed skin when at the beach or spending time in the sun. Also, a cool pair of shades isn’t just a fashion accessory; sunglasses protect the eyes from UV radiation.
  • Check UV index. Before heading out doors check the UV Index for the day to help you plan your outdoor activities.
For more tips and suggestions and a complete list of EWG’s best- and worst-ranked sun-protection products, check out the 2015 Guide to Sunscreens online.

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A new study finds 80 percent of sunscreens on the market don't work as effectively as makers claim and/or contain potentially harmful ingredients.
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Friday, 22 May 2015 09:23 AM
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