Ninety-two percent of sunscreens evaluated got low marks by the Environmental Working Group due to exaggerated SPF claims above 50 and potential hazardous ingredients. Some sunscreens may even increase the risk of skin cancer due to the presence of retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A found in 41 percent of sunscreens.
“FDA data suggest that vitamin A may be photocarcinogenic, meaning that in the presence of the sun’s ultraviolet rays, the compound and skin undergo complex biochemical changes resulting in cancer,” the EWG wrote in its 2010 Sunscreen Guide. Evidence against vitamin A is inconclusive, but EWG advises avoiding sunscreens with it as long as it’s suspect.
Another ingredient on EWG’s black list is the potential hormone disruptor oxybenzone, which can penetrate the skin and was found in about 60 percent of the 500 beach and sport sunscreens analyzed. In all, the report looked at about 1,400 products, including sprays, moisturizers, lip balms and makeup.
Many of the worst offenders are sunscreens for babies. Included in the EWG’s “Hall of Shame” are Banana Boat Baby Max Protect, SPF 100, which protects the skin from UVB but not UVA rays; and Panama Jack Naturals Baby Sunblock SPF 50, which contains oxybenzone. This was “one of at least 26 sunscreens offered in the 2010 season with the word ‘baby’ in their name and the chemical oxybenzone on their ingredient list,” the guide said. “EWG advises consumers to avoid sunscreens containing oxybenzone.”
The best sunscreens, according to the guide, include All Terrain’s Aquasport, TerraSport and KidSport Performance sunscreens, SPF 30 (pictured); Badger Sunscreen for Face and Body, unscented and lightly scented SPF 30 and lightly scented SPF 15; and Beyond Coastal Lip and Face Screen, SPF 30.
To find how your sunscreen measures up and to read the full report, visit www.ewg.org/2010sunscreen.