Hundreds of lotions aren’t effective protection against UV rays — and they also may not be safe.
Shopping for sunscreen? The Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) newly released 2011 sunscreen guide can help you make smart decisions.
This research and advocacy group recommends a mere 20 percent of the 600-plus beach and sport sunscreens it evaluated. To score high marks in the rankings, a product must be effective — adequately protect skin from both UVA (which causes premature aging, skin cancer, and other skin damage) and UVB (which causes sunburn) rays. It must also be safe, meaning free of potentially harmful chemicals.
EWG’s Sunscreens to Avoid: The 2011 products to avoid list contains some popular brands.
Aveeno Active Naturals Hydrosport Sunblock Spray, SPF 85
Aveeno Sunblock Spray, Continuous Protection, SPF 70
Banana Boat Kids UltraMist Sunscreen, SPF 110
Banana Boat Kids UltraMist Sunscreen, SPF 85
Banana Boat Sport Performance Active Max Protect Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 110
Banana Boat Ultra Defense UltraMist Sunscreen Continuous Clear Spray, SPF 85
CVSExtreme Sport Clear Mist Sunscreen Spray, SPF 70+
CVS Sheer Mist Sunscreen Spray, SPF 70
Neutrogena Fresh Cooling Sunblock Lotion, Body Mist, SPF 70
Neutrogena Spectrum+ Sunblock Spray, SPF 100
Neutrogena Ultimate Sport Sunblock Spray, SPF 100+
Neutrogena Ultimate Sport Sunblock Spray, SPF 70
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist Sunblock Lotion, SPF 100+
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist Sunblock Lotion, SPF 70
Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Sunblock Spray, SPF 70
Neutrogena Wet Skin Sunblock Spray, SPF 85+
Walgreens Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen, SPF 70
How did EWG come up with this list? Each of the products to avoid meets all of these criteria:
• SPF values above 50-plus. Higher SPF products are not necessarily best. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration says these numbers can be misleading. There’s a concern that high SPF products may give people a false sense of security and encourage people to stay out in the sun for too long without reapplying sunscreen. It’s also important to note that the SPF is based solely on UVB protection.
• Sunscreen sprays. They can fill the air with tiny particles that may not be safe to breathe in, according to EWG.
• Contains oxybenzone and vitamin A. Oxybenzone is a concern because it penetrates the skin, is associated with allergic reactions, and is a potential hormone disruptor. Retinyl palmitate is a form of vitamin A that may not be safe when exposed to sunlight. EWG recommends choosing products with one of these ingredients instead: zinc, titanium dioxide, avobenzone, or Mexoryl SX.
Which products does EWG recommend? Here’s a list of its best beach and sport sunscreens.
Unfortunately, some of the safest and most effective sunscreens on store shelves can be expensive so it’s worthwhile to shop around for deals. Here are the most affordable products that performed well in EWG’s ratings.