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How Safe and Effective Are Sunscreens?

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

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"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."

Lim says the report's authors caution that oxybenzone can be absorbed into the skin. "It's true, but there is no evidence that it is of any clinical significance."

Lim also points out that sunscreens are improving, according to the report. "Not all products have good UVA protection," he says, "but more do."

"Ingredients are not the full story of good sun protection," says Read. Using sunscreen correctly, using the right sunscreen for your exposure and skin type, and reapplying every two hours is crucial, she says.

Lim advises patients to look for ingredients known to help protect against UVA, such as avobenzone (Parsol 1789), titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or mexoryl.

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