Way less than half of adults going out in the sun for a while bother with sunscreen. For those patting themselves on the back because they do use sunscreen, odds are the one being used does not work adequately. New research shows that most of the sunscreens on the market today are not as effective as they claim, but even a weak sun protection factor (SPF) is better than going bare and forgoing sun protection at all.
Most American adults are at risk for getting skin cancer, but protecting themselves against harmful sunrays and skin cancer is rarely done. Furthermore, it is rarely done with a sunscreen strong enough to make a difference. Additionally, many products on the market promise protection they fail to deliver.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), new research shows that only 14 percent of men who will be exposed to the sun’s rays for at least an hour bother with sunscreen. Women are much better at protecting themselves, but that is not saying much. Less than one-third of all women used sun protection, which would also include cosmetics with SPF ratings. Those numbers are actually the good news in the CDC research.
The bad news is a new study, by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), of the effectiveness of over 1,700 products with SPF ingredients (traditional sunscreens, moisturizers, lotions and lip balms). Approximately 80 percent of the products provided “inferior sun protection,” according to EWG, or they contained questionable ingredients like oxybenzone and vitamin A that have been proven to do more harm more than good in sunsreens on people. Oxybenzone reportedly disrupts the hormone system and applying vitamin A layers through skin products can increase one’s sensitivity to sunrays.
The team also pointed out some brands, particularly Neutrogena, that have positive reputations for skincare, but had issues in their research.. Their sunscreen for babies reportedly contains methylsothiazolinone, which has been declared as unsafe for products like sunscreens by the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety.
Additionally, they state that Neutrogena claims to offer SPF values of 70 or 100+ on their products, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration claims that the top SPF listed should be 50, which is about where the benefits “max out.”
Sunscreens are considered to be the least effective if they come in spray form. This is partly because chemicals are inhaled with use of sprays. Also, lotions are typically put on with a thicker layer. The spray sunscreens also contain ingredients that are potentially harmful. The EWG actually estimates that over half of the sunscreens for sale in the U.S. would not be allowed on European store shelves, which have “higher standards for UVA protection.”
On the positive side, about one-third of the sunscreens tested by EWG and in a separate study by Consumer Reports, had SPFs that provided the protection promised. Surprisingly, price is not a factor. two of the “better” options in the testing were Walmart house branded products that sell for less than $10: Equate Sport Continuous Spray SPF 30 and Equate Ultra Protection lotion SPF 50. They believe an SPF over 50 is misleading, and encourages people to apply less than needed.
Melanoma (the most common skin cancer) is the third most-common cancer for adolescents and young adults, and is preventable. Most experts emphasize the need for sunscreens when going outside, because it is better to have a sunscreen that is not highly effective than going bare skinned.
By Dyanne Weiss
TIME: 80% of Sunscreens Don’t Really Work or Have ‘Worrisome’ Ingredients
CNN: The Best Sunscreens Of 2015 That We Are Not Using (Especially Men)
TIME: Obama Signs Law for Better Sunscreen
Medical Daily: EWG’s Sunscreen Guide Outs Brands For False Protection Claims; Which Can You Trust?