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How Safe and Effective Are Sunscreens?

Environmental Working Group Sees Improvements, but Still Gives Industry Low Marks

Failures and Improvements continued...

EWG scientists did find that 70% of sunscreens available this year contain strong UVA filters, compared to just 29% last year. Among the top brands that were reformulated to boost UVA protection are Solbar, Zia Natural Skincare, Nivea, L'Oreal, and Hawaiian Tropic.

The ingredient oxybenzone, which the EWG contends disrupts hormone systems, was in 19% fewer sunscreens this year, according to the report.

Among the 339 sunscreens not recommended are:

  • Coppertone NutraShield, Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30
  • Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock, SPF 30
  • Huggies Little Swimmers Sunscreen, Moisturizing Blue Melon Splash
  • Jason Natural Cosmetics Sunbrellas: Complete Block Spray, SPF 26
  • CVS Sport Sunblock Lotion, SPF 30

 

Industry Response

The recent EWG report is "unscientific and unsubstantiated," says John Bailey, chief scientist for the Personal Care Products Council, an industry group, in a statement.

In part, the statement also reads: "Consumers can be confident in the safety of the sunscreens they buy for themselves and their families because all sunscreens sold in the U.S. are regulated as over-the-counter (OTC) drugs by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which requires them to go through rigorous scientific assessment and approval process that includes safety and performance testing before marketing."

In a telephone interview, Bailey tells WebMD: "I think there are so many flaws in this report that it's difficult to really know where to start." One flaw, he says, is that "they should have consulted real experts in the area," Instead, he says, they developed their own way of scoring and didn't consider ingredient stability in a realistic way.

Other Opinions

"The most important thing they highlight is that the FDA is really lagging behind in getting a UVA rating," says Eric Schweiger, MD, a Manhattan dermatologist and clinical instructor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, who reviewed the report for WebMD.

The report also contends that higher SPF products may tempt people to stay out longer, but Schweiger says he tells patients to use as high as possible "because people tend to not apply it right."

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