Potentially Harmful Sunscreens
Written by Faith Anderson on May 15, 2012
Dangerous Ingredients in Popular Sunscreens
Choosing a safe product isn’t based only on the numbers; some sunscreens also contain potentially harmful ingredients. Keep in mind when buying sunscreen that ingredients like retinyl palmitate (Vitamin A) may cause tumors and lesions to develop more rapidly when skin is exposed to the sun. According to Nneka Leiba, Senior Research Analyst and the EWG guide’s lead author, “The FDA and National Toxicology both say [retinyl palmitate] may heighten the risk of skin damage and cancer.” Oxybenzone can also be dangerous, as it is linked to hormone disruption and can cause allergic reactions. EWG recommends trying sunscreen products with one of these ingredients instead: titanium dioxide, zinc, Mexoryl S, or avobenzone. The guide warns that consumers should also stay away from spray or powder sunscreens, as they can fill the air with tiny particles EWG says may be carcinogenic and dangerous to inhale, possibly causing lung inflammation.
EWG’s List of Worst Sunscreens
According to the EWG, consumers should avoid the following sunscreens because they have SPF values above 50+, are sprays or powders, and contain retinyl palmitate and/or oxybenzone.
- Neutrogena Fresh Cooling Body Mist Sunblock, SPF 70
- CVS Sheer Mist Sunscreen, SPF 70
- Aveeno Continuous Protection Sunblock Spray Active, SPF 70
- Banana Boat Sport Performance Active MAX Protect Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 110
- Wegmans Sheer Sunscreen Body Mist, SPF 55
- Walgreens Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen Spray, SPF 70
- Rite Aid Extreme Sport Continuous Spray, SPF 70+
- Coppertone Sport Clear Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 90
EWG’s Best Affordable Sunscreens
Based on the EWG’s analysis of over 800 beach and sport sunscreens, it has recommended the following 15 products.
- Caribbean Solutions Sol Kid Kare Biodegradable Sunscreen, SPF 25
- Coppertone Kids Pure & Simple Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50
- BabyGanics Cover Up Baby Sunscreen for Face & Body, Fragrance Free, SPF 50+
- Color Me Pink Baby UV/Kids UV 100% Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30
- Purple Prairie Botanicals SunStuff Mineral Lotion, SPF 30
- Sunbow Dora the Explorer Sunscreen, Pink, SPF 30
- Tropical Sands Broad Spectrum Sunscreen, SPF 30
- Nature’s Gate Aqua Block Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50
- Solbar Shield Sunscreen, SPF 40
- Vanicream Sport Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 35
- Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen, Face, SPF 30+
- Healing-Scents Live Long Mineral-Based Sunscreen, SPF 25
- Hara Body Care Hara Sport Sunscreen, SPF 30
- Alba Botanica Natural Very Emollient Sunblock, Kids Mineral Protection, SPF 30
- KidsUV Natural Sunscreen, Blue, SPF 30
FDA Warnings for Potentially Harmful Sunscreens
The sunscreen guide comes on the heels of a recent FDA announcement, in which the agency said that it would give sunscreen manufacturers an additional six months to comply with guidelines outlined in June 2011, geared towards ending confusion about sunscreen labeling. The FDA guidelines were set to go into effect June 18 and encouraged companies to use ingredients that protect against both UVA and UVB rays, required warning labels on products with lower than an SPF 14 rating, and prohibited manufacturers from using terms like “waterproof,” “all-day protection,” and “sunblock.” According to the FDA, sunscreens with SPF values above 50+ are misleading, because they may encourage people to stay out in the sun for too long. Since SPF is based only on UVB protection, which doesn’t protect against premature aging and deeper tissue damage, consumers who use higher SPF products often have a false sense of security.