Parents spend a good part of the summer slathering kids with sunscreen but is the one you’re using actually effective? A new study from the Environmental Working Group showed that 75% or more than 1,850 products rated poorly for skin protection from the sun or even have ingredients that could be harmful to health or heighten sensitivity to the sun’s rays.
Only one out of four met the group’s standards for adequate protection, as detailed in their 16th annual Guide to Sunscreens.
“Some ingredients commonly found in sunscreens have been linked to both human and environmental concerns,” says 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 sunscreens that scored the best contained zinc oxide, titanium dioxide or both. These well-rated sunscreens included ones at a range of different prices and are sold at popular retailers across the US.
“On the bright side, more than 280 sunscreens measure up to our rigorous standards,” says 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.”
“The long-term use of these chemicals, and especially chemicals not adequately tested for safety, could be problematic,” Burns added. “It’s gratifying to see companies continue to reformulate their SPF products to move away from these concerning ingredients.”
The top tips for staying safe in the sun include wearing protective clothing such as a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV protection. Avoid spending time in the sun around during peak hours if possible and find areas of shade when walking or playing outdoors.
EWG also suggests avoiding products with oxybenzone, which they say can affect hormone levels, and those with vitamin A which is thought to cause tumors or lesions. Be wary of SPF values above 50 which may not offer increased UVA protection but can make people lax when it comes to reapplying sunscreen. Avoid sunscreen sprays since they don’t offer adequate protection and poses a risk from inhaled chemicals.
Want more? Check out these tips to keep kids healthy.