Think your expensive sunscreen will protect your skin? Unlikely. Put on a hat and shirt and sit in the shade instead. That, basically, is the latest sunny advice from Environmental Working Group, a green health nonprofit that released its latest Sunscreen Guide earlier this week.
Store shelves may be crowded with numerous sunscreen brands boasting high SPF ratings, but most of those promises are bunk, according to EWG. In fact, only 8 percent of beach and sport sunscreens on the market this season actually do what they claim.
What’s wrong with the other 92 percent? The issues range from creating consumer confusion to using ineffective or even dangerous ingredients. According to EWG, many sunscreens that list high SPF protection don’t protect against UVA radiation. Many people, however, look just at the SPF number and assume they’re good to go out — and stay out longer too, getting burned. People also put on only about a quarter of the sunscreen necessary to get full SPF benefits, leading to more burned skin. “In everyday practice, a product labeled SPF 100 really performs like SPF 3.2, an SPF 30 rating equates to a 2.3 and an SPF 15 translates to 2,” reports EWG.
If that’s not bad enough, some sunscreens may be downright dangerous. EWG has warned about the use of oxybenzone — a hormone disruptor — in sunscreens in previous years. But this year, additional new concerns are being raised about a vitamin A compound called retinyl palmitate — found in a whopping 41 percent of sunscreens — because it’s suspected that the stuff may actually elevate skin cancer risk when used in sunscreens. Studies are as of yet inconclusive and an FDA investigation is underway, but EWG is recommending that people opt for Vitamin A-free sunscreens to be on the safe side.
What’s a sun-loving environmentalist to do? The FDA is supposed to revamp its regulations for sunscreens, with new rules planned to be issued next October. In the meantime, opt for one of the 39 greener and safer sunscreens recommended by EWG — and look for some eco-friendly hats and beachwear to wear while relaxing under the shade of your favorite palm tree.