With Memorial Day weekend just days away, it's time kick off the summer in style with picnics, pool parties and lots of fun in the sun. With all of that sun should come sunscreen, but it may be time to rethink what brand you buy.
A new report released today by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has found that 80 percent of sunscreen products on store shelves are either ineffective or contain ingredients that may be harmful to your health. For the report, the 2015 Guide to Sunscreens, the EWG evaluated the ingredients and effectiveness of 1,700 products, including sunscreens, SPF-rated moisturizers and lip balms.
The results? "Our research confirms that not all sunscreens are created equal," said Dave Andrews, senior scientist at EWG. "Many products do not provide enough UVA protection." The EWG report also found that many products contained harmful ingredients such as the hormone disruptor oxybenzone or retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A linked to skin damage.
Only 21 percent of the sunscreens analyzed for EWG’s guide scored high marks. You can find an A-Z list of the approved products here.
In addition to recommending products to buy, the EWG report called out certain brands — including Neutrogena, Banana Boat, Coppertone and CVS — for misleading claims, potentially unsafe ingredients and ineffective ingredients. In particular, the EWG report gave a thumbs down to Neutrogena for selling what they call "questionable" products with an SPF as high as 110. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration calls SPF values greater than 50+ "inherently misleading" because studies show that folks who use these high SPF sunscreens tend to spend more time in the sun even though there's no proof that they provide greater levels of protection.
The EWG report also noted that many Neutrogena products contain unsubstantiated claims such as the "#1 dermatologist recommended suncare brand," as well as some potentially harmful ingredients.
"It is really quite astonishing how Neutrogena attempts to deceive shoppers with ad hype in order to sell potentially harmful products," said Sonya Lunder, EWG senior analyst. "We’ve turned a spotlight on bad actors like Neutrogena, but so much more needs to be done to stop companies from getting away with hyping their products at the expense of consumer health."
In addition to the report, you can also download the EWG's barcode scanning app to find info about specific products on the go.
So as you gear up for the summer, remember that sunscreen is only one part of the sun protection picture. It's also important to limit your time in the sun and wear clothing to cover exposed skin whenever possible. Those steps, combined with a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher from the EWG's list should help your family stay sun-safe this summer.
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- What you may not know about sunscreen
- Why I don't wear sunscreen
- What we can learn about sunscreen from coral reefs