Sunscreen Guide Contains Surprises About Effectiveness

The Environmental Working Group has issued published its 11th annual guide including information on beach and sport sunscreens, moisturizers and lip products containing Sun Protection Factor (SPF).

In 2007, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment, issued its first Sunscreen Guide. Ten years later, the EWG published its 11th annual guide based on its investigation of more than 880 beach and sport sunscreens, 480 moisturizers, and 120 lip products containing Sun Protection Factor (SPF).

The EWG found that almost 75% of the products they examined contained less than the labeled SPF, and some contained ingredients such as oxybenzone, a hormone disruptor, and retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A that may actually be harmful to the skin.

Since 2007, EWG found an increase in the availability of mineral-only sunscreens, doubling from 17% of products to 34% in 2017. Sunscreens using zinc oxide and titanium dioxide rated well in the EWG analysis because of their stability in sunlight and protection from UVA as well as UVB radiation. In 2011, the FDA set sunscreen rules to prohibit false marketing claims from product labels, such as the words “waterproof” and “sweat proof.”

However, the FDA allowed sunscreen labels to state that they play a role in preventing skin cancer despite little scientific evidence that suggests sunscreen alone reduces cancer risk, particularly for melanoma. The EWG Sunscreen report and additional information are available here.