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Many Sunscreens Not What You Think

Watchdog Group Finds Most Sunscreens Lacking; Industry Disagrees

How the Study Was Done continued...

Of the top 10 selling brands evaluated, only three got good ratings: Blue Lizard Australian Suncream SPF30/Baby, California Baby Water-Resistant HypoAllergenic Sunscreen SPF30-plus, and Aveeno Baby Sunblock Lotion Continuous Protection SPF 55.

Thirteen percent of the high-SPF products evaluated (with an SPF 30 or above) provide poor UVA protection.

Fifty-four percent of the products have ingredients that can break down in the sun, compromising protection.

At least 48% of the products have claims considered unacceptable or misleading under the FDA draft of sunscreen safety standards, the EWG says. They looked at such claims as "all day protection" and "blocks all harmful rays."

The Back Story

What triggered the study? "We did this analysis because the FDA has not set comprehensive safety standards for sunscreens," Houlihan says, "and we think people need to know about products on the market that are safe and effective."

The FDA has set guidelines for UVB protection in sunscreen but not for UVA protection. The FDA "is currently working on regulations for over-the-counter sunscreen drug products that would address, among other things, UVA testing and SPF labeling issues," according to a statement released by the FDA after the sunscreen report. In the U.S., sunscreen products are regulated by the FDA, either under the new drug approval process or over-the-counter drug review, with the majority regulated under the OTC review.

A Dermatologist's View

The new report got mixed reviews from Henry W. Lim, MD, the vice president of the American Academy of Dermatology and chairman of dermatology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. One of his criticisms is that they did not test the sunscreens directly. Yet, he understands why they did not. "It's not practical for them to test these in the field," he says. "There are too many.

"I'm certain that some of the findings are accurate," he says. In particular, he says, some sunscreens indeed may contain ingredients that are not stable and do break down in sunlight, as the report shows. "But the way it came out, it seems to me it's a very negative report," Lim tells WebMD.

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