Many Sunscreens Sold in US Offer Suboptimal Protection, According to New Report
By Rachael Rettner / LiveScience / May 22, 2019
Sunscreen is a must-have for summer, but be advised: About two-thirds of sunscreens available in the U.S. offer suboptimal protection or contain ingredients that may harm your health, according to a new report.
The researchers ranked sunscreens based on several criteria, including whether ingredients listed in the products are linked with health hazards and how well the products work to block ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, both of which can damage the skin and cause skin cancer.
As part of the FDA’s proposal, the agency asked the sunscreen industry for additional evidence on the safety of 12 common sunscreen ingredients. EWG found that these 12 ingredients were used in more than 50 percent of the sunscreens reviewed for this year’s guide.
EWG is particularly concerned about a sunscreen chemical called oxybenzone, and the organization doesn’t recommend sunscreens with this ingredient. This chemical may act as a hormone disruptor in humans and has been found to damage coral reefs. An FDA study published earlier this month also found that oxybenzone and at least three other common sunscreen chemicals can leach into people’s blood rather quickly and reach levels high enough to warrant further testing on the substances’ safety.
In terms of recommended ingredients, there are two sunscreen ingredients that the FDA does consider safe and effective: Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These are the same two ingredients that EWG recommends for sunscreens, the report said.
The FDA also proposed that all spray and powdered sunscreens undergo testing to make sure that these forms of application don’t cause sunscreen ingredients to be inhaled deep into the lungs.
EWG is also concerned about this inhalation risk, and says that spray and powdered sunscreens may also not provide a thick enough coating on the skin to be protective. Right now, the group does not recommend any spray or powdered sunscreens.
EWG also recommends that people avoid sunscreens with an SPF, or sunburn protection factor, above 50https://www.livescience.com/32666-how-does-sunscreen-work.html. High SPF values don’t necessarily mean better protection and may give consumers a false sense of security about how long they can stay in the sun without reapplying sunscreen, the group said.