Greasy feeling

A look at the effectiveness of sunscreens

Time to lather up the kids with sunscreen, but which ones really work? According to a recent publication by Environmental Working Group (EWG), only about one in four of the 800 sunscreens it reviewed this year gets a stamp of approval. But even that low rate is a big jump from the 1-in-12 ratings of 2010.

EWG reports that 25 percent of the sunscreens studied contain retinyl palmitate, which research suggests increases the growth of skin tumors on sun-exposed skin, and more than half offer weak UVA protection and 56 have no UVA protection at all. What’s more, the Sun Protection Factor rating (SPF) relates only to the UVB sunrays that turn your skin red, not the UVA rays that leave no mark but can also cause cancer.

EWG says the Federal Drug Administration is not doing its job in regulating sunscreens, including the elimination of meaningless claims—“sweatproof,” “waterproof” or “sunblock”—from labels.

See how your sunscreen rates: Go to for a list of the worst and best sunscreens.