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Group Calls Some Sunscreens 'Snake Oil'

Environmental Group EWG Says Only 8% of Sunscreens Are Safe and Effective

Sunscreen Industry Responds

Rather than relying on sunscreens alone for protection from the sun, the EWG recommends avoiding sun exposure entirely during peak hours and wearing protective clothing whenever possible.

“The longer we examine sunscreen the more we favor the message that hats, shirts, and shade are the very best sunscreens of all,” Houlihan says.

In an interview with WebMD, Lisa Powers, a spokeswoman for the sunscreen industry group Personal Care Products Council (PCPC), called the EWG report “reckless.”

“I would hate to think of a parent not using sunscreen on their child based on the baseless claims in this report, when the science on the dangers of sun exposure, especially in childhood, is so solid,” Powers says.

PCPC Chief Scientist John Bailey, PhD, called "ridiculous" the EWG claim that sunscreens don’t provide adequate protection against the sun because people rarely use them as recommended.

According to the EWG report, a 100 SPF product typically protects more like an SPF 3 because people tend to use far less sunscreen than they should and reapply it less often than recommended.

“This is just a ludicrous charge,” Bailey tells WebMD. “I don’t know how they came up with this.”

The industry representatives agree with the environmental group on one thing, however: that long-awaited changes in sunscreen labeling by the FDA will help consumers better understand the difference between sunscreens.

For the first time, sunscreen manufacturers will be required to provide information on the amount of UVA screening provided by their products.

UVA rays do not cause sunburns, but they do contribute to skin cancer and sun-related skin aging.

The new regulations are also expected to prohibit manufacturers from claiming SPF of more than 50+.

A spokeswoman for the FDA tells WebMD that the finalized guidelines should be made public later this year.

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