of causing harm.” The best-scoring recreational sun-

screens on EWG’s list contain the mineral- based active ingredients zinc oxide, tita- nium dioxide or both, since they have fewer health concerns and offer good sun protection. Zinc oxide especially provides good broad-spectrum protection and pro- tection from both UVA and UVB rays, and it is stable in the sun. “The majority of sunscreen products sold in the U.S. don’t offer adequate pro- tection against both UVA and UVB rays,” said Carla Burns, EWG senior healthy living science analyst, who works on the Sunscreen Guide. “But the good news is there are more than 400 SPF products that meet our rigorous standards.” More than one in 10 of the sunscreens EWG reviewed claimed to have an SPF greater than 50+.

According to the National Cancer

Institute, the rate of new melanoma cases among American adults has tripled since the 1970s, from 7.9 per 100,000 people in 1975 to 22.6 per 100,000 in 2017. Although the reasons for this trend are unclear, scientists have established that risk factors include family history, indoor tanning, fair skin, freckles, moles, ultra- violet radiation and severe sunburns. In early 2019, the FDA’s proposed sunscreen monograph stated that there is growing evidence linking UVA exposure to skin cancer.

“High SPF values are a marketing gim-

mick that could lead to overexposure to harmful rays,” said EWG Senior Scientist David Andrews, Ph.D., who works on the Sunscreen Guide. “High SPF numbers encourage misuse, particularly if a person spends more time in the sun without reap- plying. Change in the U.S. sunscreen market is long overdue.”

EWG estimates that, because they

provide inadequate UVA protection, most sunscreens sold in the U.S. would not be sold in Europe, which sets much more stringent UVA standards.

Sunscreen products are capped at SPF

50 in Europe and Japan, and 50+ in Canada and Australia. Sunscreen regulations have not been

updated since 2011. Due to changes in the way over-the-counter-drugs are regu- lated, the FDA’s draft sunscreens mono- graph was withdrawn in the first corona- virus relief bill. The FDA is due to propose

JUNE 2021 7

its long-awaited rules on sunscreens again this fall.

Sunscreen is only one tool in the sun safety toolbox – it can help protect the skin from sun damage but should never be a person’s only line of defense. Proper sun protection includes protective clothing, like a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt, a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses with UV protection, and shade.

Here are some tips for choosing better sunscreens and staying safe in the sun:

• Avoid products with oxybenzone. This chemical is absorbed through the skin in large amounts and can affect hor- mone levels.

• Stay away from vitamin A. Govern- ment studies link the use of retinyl pal- mitate, a form of vitamin A, to the forma- tion of skin tumors and lesions when it’s applied to sun-exposed skin.

• Steer clear of sunscreens with SPF values higher than 50+, which may not provide increased UVA protection and can fool people into thinking they’re safe from sun damage.

• Avoid sprays. These popular products make it difficult to apply a thick and uniform coating on skin. They also pose inhalation concerns.

• Avoid intense sun exposure during the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• Check products against EWG’s Guide to Sunscreens and avoid those with harmful additives.

Shoppers on the go can download

EWG’s Healthy Living App to get ratings and safety information on sunscreens and other personal care products right at their fingertips. EWG’s sunscreen label decoder can also help consumers look- ing for safer sunscreens.


Sun safety tips

First things first Check your skin regularly for new

moles or growth or changes in an existing mole. Ask your primary health care pro-

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