With summer rapidly approaching, sun-worshipers and health-conscious consumers alike will undoubtedly be going back to the store to purchase another bottle of sunscreen. This vital component of summer protection has become a welcome routine, and such a familiar one that even the scent of it may be powerful enough to conjure up images and dreams of the beach. However, Consumer Reports is now leading the call to increase testing of these important seasonal products, as they reveal that company claims about sunscreen protections are not accurate.
When shopping for sun-blockers, one of the biggest criteria for most shoppers is how strongly the lotion can prevent burns and skin damage. Each bottle labels their product with specific sun-protection factor, or SPF, which indicates to users how strongly the product can block the effects of the sun’s potentially harmful ultraviolet B rays. While exposure to sunlight is important for good health – for example, Vitamin D production is accomplished by exposure to the sun’s energy – the problem is that too much sunlight can cause burns, skin aging and even skin cancers. So when consumers look to purchase this product, they should be confident that what they are buying will actually do the job that they are looking for.
Unfortunately, the Consumer Reports National Research Center has now revealed that these sun-blocking lotions may not be blocking nearly as much sun as is claimed. Their study revealed that, of the 20 sunscreens tested, only two of them actually offered the amount of protection that was stated on the bottle. Furthermore, one product provided less than half the SPF than was labelled, while another was so low it could not even be determined how much protection it was actually giving. The rest of this group of products were coming in with a SPF anywhere from four to forty percent below the stated amount. In short, labels indicating sunscreen protections are generally not accurate, and the Consumers Union, which handles policy and advocacy for Consumer Reports, is asking the FDA in the US to improve its own screening of several key aspects of these products.
First, they would like to see sunscreens made with better ingredients. Specifically, the Consumers Union says that there are more effective sun-blocking chemicals that are being used in Europe and elsewhere around the world, and the FDA should do a review of these ingredients. Second, they say better lotion safety information is required. Apparently, many people are not using enough of the product to actually get the full protective effect from the sun-blocker. In addition, some of the spray-on lotions use a compound called titanium dioxide, which, when inhaled, may actually be a cancer-causing agent. As such, Consumer Union does not recommend sprays for children. Finally, many high-SPF products were not meeting their claims of effectiveness, so the advocacy group is hoping that the FDA will mandate that 50+ is the maximal claim allowable for lotions in the future.
In the meantime, of course, it is still recommended that people lather up with sun-blocking lotion when going out into the sun. While product labels concerning sunscreen protections may not be accurate, sun-blockers are still a good way, along with hats, to reduce harmful exposure to UV radiation.
By Bryan A. Jones