Sunscreens. They are GOOD for you, right? Well, not all sunscreens are created equal. Here’s a look at what you DON’T want in sunscreen and the top WORST sunscreens, courtesy of the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.
1) Oxybenzone If your sunscreen has Oxybenzone in the ingredients (and half of them do), it’s a BIG no-no. Oxybenzone is a hormone disrupter that penetrates the skin, gets into the bloodstream and acts like estrogen in the body. It can also trigger allergic skin reactions. Some research studies, while not conclusive, have linked higher concentrations of oxybenzone to endometriosis in older women and, lower birth weights in newborn girls.
2) Spray sunscreens
Just the other day, I was admiring a spray sunscreen and imagining how well it would help me cover my back and just overall how convenient and less messy it would be over a lotion. Uhhh…scratch THAT idea…here’s what the EWG says about spray sunscreens:
“One in every four sunscreens in this year’s database is a spray. People like sprays because they’re easy to squirt on squirming kids and hard-to-reach areas. But they may pose serious inhalation risks, and they make it too easy to apply too little or miss a spot.
The FDA has expressed doubts about their safety and effectiveness but hasn’t banned them. As long as they’re legal, sunscreen manufacturers will make them.”
3) Sky-high SPFs
Long ago, a woman at the park asked me what SPF I used on my face daily. I answered 30 SPF, to which she said snootily, “Well, why not 50 SPF or 70 SPF?” It was almost as if she was saying “You are doing the BARE minimum on protecting your face from sun damage.” And, “I’m BETTER than YOU, and SMARTER than YOU since I’m using an SPF 75.” Well, LOOK who feels stupid, now, lady? Higher than 50SPF is not necessarily better.
Sky-high SPF’s are a little less common now that info has surfaced to consumers that sun protection tops out at 30-50 SPF, but these products with 50+ SPF are still on the shelves.
The EWG says that one eighth of the sunscreens they evaluated this year boast SPFs above 50+. Remember that SPF stands for “sun protection factor,” but the EWG says that outdated term refers only to protection against UVB rays that burn the skin. They say the SPF has little to do with a product’s ability to protect skin from UVA rays, which penetrate deep into the body, accelerate skin aging, may suppress the immune system and may cause skin cancer.
The worst thing about high-SPF products? They give people a false sense of security and tempt them to stay in the sun too long. They suppress sunburns but raise the risk of other kinds of skin damage. The FDA is considering barring SPF above 50+.
4) Retinyl palmitate
Retinyl palmitate is a form of vitamin A and a great ingredient for your NIGHT cream…just not your sunscreen, as when exposed to the sun, retinyl palmitate can speed up development of skin tumors and lesions.
The EWG says that nearly 20 percent of the sunscreens and SPF-rated moisturizers and 13 percent of SPF-rate lip products in this year’s guide contain retinyl palmitate, and even though the FDA hasn’t banned the ingredient in sunscreens, the EWG thinks there’s enough evidence to believe you’re better off without sunscreens with retinyl palmitate.
So, here is the 2015 HALL OF SHAME list for sprays, lotions and kid sunscreens. This are products that promise sun protection but don’t deliver.
11 Worst Spray Sunscreens
These sunscreens are aerosol sprays with SPFs above 50+ and the harmful additives oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate. The FDA is considering barring SPF above 50+ since it’s a misleading label.
– Banana Boat Clear UltraMist Ultra Defense MAX Skin Protect Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 110
– Coppertone Sport High Performance AccuSpray Sunscreen, SPF 70
– Coppertone Sport High Performance Clear Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 100+
– CVS Clear Spray Sunscreen, SPF 100
– CVS Sheer Mist Spray Sunscreen, SPF 70
– CVS Sport Clear Spray Sunscreen, SPF 100+
– CVS Wet & Dry Sunscreen Spray, SPF 85
– Neutrogena Fresh Cooling Sunscreen Body Mist, SPF 70
– Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen Spray, SPF 100+
– Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen Spray, SPF 70
– Neutrogena Wet Skin Sunscreen Spray, SPF 85+
12 Worst Sunscreen Lotions
These sunscreen lotions claim SPFs above 50+ and contain oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate.
– Banana Boat Sport Performance Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 100
– Coppertone Sport High Performance Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 100
– Coppertone Sport High Performance Sunscreen, SPF 75
– Coppertone Sport Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55
– Coppertone Ultra Guard Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70+
– CVS Sport Sunstick Sunscreen, SPF 55
– CVS Sun Lotion Sunscreen, SPF 100
– CVS Sun Lotion Sunscreen, SPF 70
– Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Daily Liquid Sunscreen, SPF 70
– NO-AD Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 60
– NO-AD Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 85
– Ocean Potion Protect & Nourish Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70
11 Worst Sunscreens for Kids
EWG says these terrible kid and baby sunscreens have at least three strikes against them: 1) oxybenzone, 2) retinyl palmitate and 3) SPFs above 50+. Two have a fourth strike: they’re aerosol sprays that can harm sensitive young lungs. Convenient? Yes. Good for kids? Absolutely not.
Banana Boat Clear UltraMist Kids Max Protect & Play Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 110
Coppertone Kids Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70
Coppertone Kids Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55
Coppertone Kids Wacky Foam Foaming Lotion Sunscreen, SPF 70+
Coppertone Water Babies Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70+
Coppertone Water Babies Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55
Equate Kids Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55
Kroger Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70
Kroger Kids Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70
Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Beach & Pool Sunblock Spray, SPF 70+
Up & Up Kid’s Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55
Staying away from the above brands and reading your labels is great advice. Read the EWG’s 2015 Guide to Sunscreens to choose a sunscreen that has no harmful chemicals and that is right for you, or enter the name of the sunscreen you are currently using to see if you should ditch it or keep it.
Ditch the Dangerous, Wear the Wonderful,
~The Anti-Aging Analyst