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New Sunscreen Guide: 1 in 4 Products Deemed Safe

Group Flags Questionable Ingredients in Sunscreens; Manufacturers Say Report Is Flawed

Doctors, Industry Respond continued...

To be sure, other studies have raised questions about the chemical. But Rigel says they are far from definitive.

"This is like adding one and one and getting three," he says.

He says it's much more dangerous for people to feel confused about whether or not sunscreens are safe.

"I get melanoma patients who come in, and they say, 'You say use sunscreens. [The EWG says] they can be dangerous. I don't know what's right so I'm going to do what I want,'" Rigel tells WebMD. "They're actually convincing people to not use sunscreen. That, to me, is the scariest thing."

The Personal Care Products Council, a trade group, rejects the report. "Consumers should completely disregard the report. It's entirely irresponsible and does a great disservice to public health," says Farah Ahmed, who chairs the council's sunscreen task force. "It's chock-full of misinformation and science that's been entirely mischaracterized," she says.

Tips for Consumers

For its part, the Environmental Working Group says it isn't trying to discourage the use of sunscreens. It just wants consumers to be better educated about what they're getting and how it should be used.

"We have two general tips for consumers," says Leiba. "Although sunscreen is an important part of a full sun-protection routine, it cannot be taken in isolation. Continue to seek shade. Avoid the midday sun. Wear sun-protective clothing in addition to using sunscreens. It's only part of a full routine," she says.

Part of proper usage, she says, is proper application. She says it's important to apply the sunscreen every two hours. It's also critical to apply an adequate amount. That's a palmful for adults.

Second, she says, because they can lead to a false sense of security in the sun, "We suggest you avoid SPFs higher than 50."

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