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Just in time for the Memorial Day holiday, Environmental Working Group (EWG) has released their 7th annual Sunscreen Guide. Like previous year’s guides, this guide rates the safety and efficacy of more than 1,400 sunscreens, lotions, lip products and makeups that claim to offer sun protection. Each year EWG rates the various sun protection products on various factors, including:
- Health hazards – which includes an ingredient assessment.
- Efficacy – which figures in UVB protection, UVA protection, balance of UVA/UVB protection and sunscreen stability.
- Safety – which is based on the ingredient health hazard scoring system of EWG’s Skin Deep database.
The overall rating for each sun protection product is calculated using an EWG formula that reflects a combination of the above factors. The good news: this year, 184 beach & sport sunscreens met EWG’s criteria for safety and efficiency. The bad news: those 184 products represent just one quarter of all sunscreens reviewed in 2013, meaning many sunscreen products on the market offer poor skin protection and contain harmful ingredients with potentially serious safety concerns. Keep reading to see key facts about this year’s sunscreen guide as well as the top rated and worst rated sunscreen choices of 2013.
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Key Facts in the 2013 Sunscreen Guide
EWG researchers found quite a bit of alarming information while researching their 2013 sunscreen guide. Check out the following key facts:
- Just 25% of all sun protection products on the market in 2013 offer strong and broad UV protection and pose few safety concerns.
- This summer is the first sunscreen season governed by the new rules put into effect last December by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), yet EWG’s review of the sunscreen market found only minimal improvements for 2013, meaning the FDA is slacking when it comes to encouraging companies to sell safe sunscreens.
- Many sunscreens available on the U.S. market do not filter skin-damaging rays safely and effectively.
- The FDA’s current definition of “broad-spectrum” does not ensure adequate UVA protection.
- Almost every sunscreen EWG reviewed does meet the new FDA rule for broad-spectrum protection. However, the FDA standard is so weak that half of the sunscreens sold in America could not be sold in Europe, where they have actual comprehensive and stringent sunscreen safety and efficacy protocols in place.
EWG’s 2013 Sunscreen Recommendations
EWG’s new guide offers some key consumer tips about what to avoid when choosing sunscreen:
- Avoid sunscreen sprays because they pose serious inhalation risks and often do not fully cover and protect your skin.
- Avoid sky-high SPFs (anything higher than SPF 50+ ) which may protect against sunburn but also may leave your skin exposed to damaging UVA rays.
- Avoid oxybenzone, a chemical which flows right into your bloodstream and may cause allergic reactions, endometriosis, lower birth weight babies and and other health hazards.
- Avoid loose powder sunscreens, which like sprays, pose an inhalation risk.
- Avoid combination bug repellents + sunscreen. Use a sunscreen and use a different bug repellent.
- Avoid tanning oil products. Tans are harmful to your skin just like sunburns are.
- Avoid Retinyl Palmitate (a form of vitamin A) which may be harmful. Though note, the verdict is glaringly unclear when it comes to vitamin A. Many studies say vitamin A is hyper harmful, but a bulk of other research says it’s safe.
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