Nearly 75 percent of sunscreens offer subpar protection, study says

Almost three-fourths of the 750 sunscreens evaluated for EWG’s annual Guide to Sunscreens, released today, offer inferior protection or contain worrisome ingredients like oxybenzone, a hormone disruptor, or retinyl palmitate, which may harm skin.

Josh Jackson puts on sunblock during a Canterbury Bulldogs NRL training session at Belmore Sports Ground on September 17, 2014 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Renee McKay/Getty Images)

Josh Jackson puts on sunblock during a Canterbury Bulldogs NRL training session at Belmore Sports Ground on September 17, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Renee McKay/Getty Images)

“There have been some improvements in sun protection, but there is still a lot to be done to improve the quality of sunscreens,” said Sonya Lunder, EWG senior analyst. “Most of the products sold in the U.S. aren’t as good as they should be and don’t offer enough protection against ultraviolet rays.”

People depend too much on sunscreens and should stay out of the sun and cover up as much as possible.

With melanoma, a deadly type of skin cancer characterized by mole-like growths, on the rise, it’s more important than ever for Americans to practice safe sun protection measures and shield their skin against harmful UV rays.

Nearly three-quarters of sunscreens offer inferior protection, a new study shows.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Nearly three-quarters of sunscreens offer inferior protection, a new study shows. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Despite growing awareness of the dangers of exposure to UV radiation and a multi-billion dollar sunscreen industry, melanoma rates have tripled over the past three decades.

“Young children are especially vulnerable to sun damage. Only a few blistering sunburns in childhood can double the chance a person will develop skin cancer over a lifetime,” said Curt DellaValle, EWG senior scientist and cancer researcher.

“This year we took a closer look at the best-rated and worst-scoring sunscreens specifically marketed for use on children,” said Nneka Leiba, EWG deputy director of research. “Given their increased vulnerability to the sun’s harmful rays, we were dismayed to find so many products marketed for babies and kids that still don’t meet our standards for safety and efficacy.”

This year’s EWG Guide to Sunscreens includes a list of the best-scoring and worst rated sunscreens for kids.

“Americans need to demand stronger regulations and safer, more effective sunscreens for the entire family.” Leiba added.

Specifically, the Food and Drug Administration needs to finalize its long-awaited rules on sunscreens. In 2011, FDA banned misleading marketing claims such as “all-day protection” and “sweat-“ or “waterproof,” but the agency needs to do more to ensure that every product on store shelves provides meaningful protection, EWG said.

And while there has been some improvement in the number of sunscreens that include an ingredient that filters UVA radiation, the FDA rule defining “broad spectrum” protection remains very lax.

“About half the sunscreen products sold in the U.S. wouldn’t pass the more stringent European standards because they don’t filter enough UVA rays,” said Lunder.

The 2016 guide also includes  information on how to read product labels, identify potential hazards and avoid skin damage. Be sure to check out EWG’s sunscreen label decoder.

Shoppers on the go can download EWG’s Healthy Living App to get ratings and safety information on sunscreens and other personal care products right.

Here are some quick tips for choosing better sunscreens:

  1. Check your products in EWG’s sunscreen database and a avoid harmful additives.
  2. Steer clear of products with SPF higher than 50.
  3. Avoid sprays. They don’t provide a uniform coating and you don’t want to inhale them and coat your lungs with sunscreen.
  4. Stay away from Vitamin A. Government studies link the use of retinyl palminate, a form of Vitamin A, to formation of skin tumors and lesions when it’s applied to sun-exposed skin.
  5. Steer clear of oxybenzone. This widely used UV-filtering chemical is a hormone disruptor and allergen.
  6. Cover up. The best sun protection is clothing. Wear shirts, hats and pants to protect your skin.
  7. Reapply at least every two hours.

 

 

 

 

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