Selecting suitable sunblock has become increasingly complex, with various options claiming superior protection against harmful solar exposure. However, a recent study has found that most sunblock products lack comprehensive sunblock safety and effectiveness and may contain potentially worrisome ingredients.
Insights from the Environmental Working Group (EWG)
The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a consumer advocacy organization, has conducted extensive research on sunblock products for nearly two decades. Their 17th Annual Review of Safer Sunblocks raises significant concerns about using certain chemical ingredients and their effectiveness.
Findings of the Study
According to the EWG study, only a quarter of sunblock products on the market provide extensive broad-spectrum protection without the inclusion of potentially harmful chemicals. The research also indicates a declining usage of oxybenzone, a UV ray inhibitor linked to health issues in humans and coral reef damage. In 2019, oxybenzone was present in 60% of examined sunblock products, but this figure was reduced to 6% in 2023.
Evaluation Categories and Rankings
The EWG assessed over 1,700 sunblock products for safety and effectiveness in their 2023 review. Products were ranked on a scale of one (best) to ten (worst) in four main categories: UVB protection, UVA protection, balance between the two, and stability of active ingredients.
Importance of Broad-Spectrum Protection
When choosing a sunblock, it is crucial to consider broad-spectrum protection, which shields against both UVA and UVB rays. Unfortunately, many sunscreens offer inadequate protection against UVA rays, with nearly half of the sunscreens on the American market failing to meet European UVA protection standards. Adequate UVA protection is essential for comprehensive sun defense and reducing the risk of skin cancer and premature aging.
Environmental Impact of Sunblock Usage
The study highlights the environmental impact of certain sunblock ingredients, such as oxybenzone and octinoxate, which have been shown to cause coral bleaching and harm marine ecosystems. In response, places like Hawaii and Key West, Florida, have implemented bans on sunblocks containing these harmful chemicals.
The FDA’s Role in Ensuring Sunblock Safety
The FDA has faced increasing pressure to regulate sunblock products. While they have deemed titanium dioxide and zinc oxide safe and effective mineral ingredients, the status of twelve other ingredients, including oxybenzone, remains unclear.
Navigating the Sunblock Market: Advice for Consumers
To balance effective sun protection and safety, consumers are advised to choose products with broad-spectrum protection, SPF 30 or higher, and containing only zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. It is recommended to avoid sunblock with oxybenzone, vitamin A (retinyl palmitate), and added insect repellent.
The study underscores the need for more transparency and regulation in the sunblock market to ensure safety and efficacy. While progress has been made, there is a demand for sunblock products that provide comprehensive protection without potential health and environmental compromises. Manufacturers and regulators must work together to redefine our approach to sun protection to benefit consumers and the environment .
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- LaMotte, Sandee. “Summer Sunscreens for 2023, Ranked for Safety and Effectiveness.” CNN, 23 May 2023,www.cnn.com/2023/05/23/health/sunscreen-guide-2023-wellness/index.html.
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- US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Sunscreen Chemicals and Coral Reefs.” Skincare Chemicals and Marine Life, 1 Nov. 2018, oceanservice.noaa.gov/news/sunscreen-corals.html.
- Zraick, Karen. “Key West Bans Sunscreen Containing Chemicals Believed to Harm Coral Reefs.” The New York Times, 7 Feb. 2019,www.nytimes.com/2019/02/07/us/sunscreen-coral-reef-key-west.html.
- “Sunscreen Faqs.” American Academy of Dermatology,www.aad.org/media/stats-sunscreen.