Though sunscreens are a staple part of protecting our skin from prolonged sun exposure, experts are wary about mislabeled products or those with toxic ingredients, as well as the health hazards that come with them. Here are the top 14 worst sunscreens according to a report.
2017 Guide To Sunscreens
Last May 23, the EWG released their 11th annual guide to sunscreens. In the report, they also released information about the current sunscreens on the market. What they found was that almost three-fourths of sunscreens in the market either poorly protect the skin, or have toxic ingredients that can cause negative effects on more sensitive skin.
Along with the guide, the EWG also listed the sunscreens that are deemed as the worst scoring sunscreens for kids. The products they rated for this matter are only those that have the words "kids," "baby," "pediatric," "children," or "little" on their labels, and not those simply with images of children on their packaging.
Further, they emphasize that the Food and Drug Administration does not have any additional requirements or even a set of criteria that would differentiate sunscreen products that are marketed for children.
Here is the list of the EWG's worst scoring sunscreen for children:
• Banana Boat Kids Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 100 (10)
• Banana Boat Kids Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 100 (10)
• Coppertone Foaming Lotion Sunscreen Kids Wacky Foam, SPF 70 (7)
• Coppertone Sunscreen Continuous Spray Kids, SPF 70 (7)
• Coppertone Sunscreen Lotion Kids, SPF 70 (7)
• Coppertone Sunscreen Lotion Water Babies, SPF 70+ (7)
• Coppertone Sunscreen Stick Kids, SPF 55 (7)
• Coppertone Sunscreen Stick Water Babies, SPF 55 (7)
• Coppertone Sunscreen Water Babies Foaming Lotion, SPF 70 (7)
• CVS Health Children's Sunstick Sunscreen, SPF 55 (7)
• Equate Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70 (7)
• Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen, SPF 60+ (10)
• Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Sunscreen Spray, SPF 70+ (7)
• Up & Up Kids Sunscreen Sticks, SPF 55 (7)
Among these sunscreens on the EWG's list, 12 were scored negatively because of three things: retinyl palmitate, oxybenzone, and an SPF level of over 50+. Five of them were placed on the list because of their spray format that do not provide a thick, even coating and potentially expose children's lungs to toxic chemicals, while two were scored negatively because apart from the questionable formulation, their labels also have a different SPF value compared to EWG's estimates.
The Issue With Sunscreens
The question of the effectiveness and usefulness of sunscreen products revolve around a number of factors. For one thing, the EWG stresses that higher SPF ratings do not necessarily mean a better protection factor.
In fact, they state that the term is limited to UVB ray protection which only protects the skin against sunburn. The label does not extend to UVA rays which go deeper into the skin and speed up skin aging, cause skin cancer, and suppress the immune system.
What's more, the labels claiming to have higher SPF labels are likely misleading because due to the FDA's cap on the amount of active ingredients in a product, most sunscreens have essentially the same concentration of avobenzone, which is the main ingredient that is used to protect skin from UVA rays.
Essentially, what the EWG found is that many of the sunscreens in the market today can protect the skin from sunburns, but not from skin aging and possible melanoma.
Another problem with the use of sunscreens with higher SPF ratings is that they give people a false sense of security regarding the amount of sun exposure they have, leading them to stay under the sun for longer amounts of time.
Another matter of importance is the amount of potentially harmful ingredients in sunscreens. Forty percent of sunscreens in the market this year contain oxybenzone, an active ingredient in sunscreens that can penetrate the skin and into the bloodstream where it will act like a hormone disrupter and can cause allergic reactions. Also, retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A, may speed up the development of skin tumors and lesions on sun-exposed skin.
How Do You Choose Better Sunscreens?
The EWG guide still stresses the importance of wearing sunscreen but they suggest avoiding spray sunscreens, products with labels higher than SPF 50+, and those with hazardous ingredients such as oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate.
Further, they also go on to say that sunscreens should be the last resort for sun protection after wearing clothes that shield the skin from the sun's rays, finding proper shade, using sunglasses, and planning activities when the sun is lower in the sky.