Sunscreens Vary Widely in Safety and Effectiveness | Columnists

Now that the warm weather and sunshine have returned to Indiana, it’s time to think about sunscreens and a new report on sunscreens is out.

According to the Environmental Working Group’s 16th Annual Sunscreen Guide, about 75% of the more than 1,850 sunscreen products reviewed offer inferior sun protection or contain ingredients of concern.

In response, dermatologists, including the president of the American Academy of Dermatology, say that although some concerns have been raised about the safety of some sunscreen ingredients, sunscreens themselves remain an important tool in the fight against skin cancer.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer before age 70. Melanoma, the deadliest, has a 99% 5-year survival rate if caught early.

Overall, the Environmental Working Group found that about one in four sunscreens, or about 500 products, met its standards for providing adequate sun protection and avoiding ingredients linked to known harmful health effects. Products for babies and children did slightly better, with around one in three meeting the standards.

The group evaluated mineral sunscreens, also called physical sunscreens, and non-mineral sunscreens, also called chemical sunscreens. Mineral sunscreens contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide and sit on the skin to deflect the sun’s rays. Chemical sunscreens, with ingredients such as oxybenzone or avobenzone, are partially absorbed by the skin.

About 30% of non-mineral sunscreens contain oxybenzone, which is a potential hormone disruptor and skin sensitizer that can harm children and adults. Progress has been made, as the group found oxybenzone in 66% of the non-mineral sunscreens it reviewed in 2019.

Protection against ultraviolet A (UVA) rays is often insufficient, according to a study published last year by the Environmental Working Group which found that 282 recreational sunscreens met its criteria. Among them were the following:

Coral Safe Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30

Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30

Mad Hippie Face Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30+

The group chose 86 non-mineral sunscreens as the best options, including these:

Alba Botanica Hawaiian Sunscreen Lotion, Aloe Vera, SPF 30

Banana Boat Sport Ultra Sun Protection Stick, SPF 50+

Black Girl Sunscreen Melanin Boosting Hydrating Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30

70 sunscreens made the best kids list, including the following:

True Baby Everyday Play Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30+

Sun Organic Kids Sunscreen Stick, SPF 30+

Kiss My Face Organic Sunscreen Lotion for Kids, SPF 30

Although this report raises concerns about sunscreens, it is clear that more research is needed on some sunscreen ingredients. We really don’t know the long term consequences of oxybenzone.

For now, it might be prudent at least for children to preferentially use mineral sunscreens due to possible concern about hormonal disruption.

As a complete sun protection strategy, in addition to a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher for exposed skin, dermatologists recommend seeking shade and wearing protective clothing. sunscreen to reduce the risk of skin cancer.

The amount of sun exposure required for vitamin D synthesis is far less than the amount that produces sunburn. Most people need eight minutes or less of unprotected summer sun exposure to maximize vitamin D synthesis. But it’s not known whether sunscreen use can lead to vitamin D deficiency. .

For maximum effectiveness, sunscreen should be applied approximately 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure and reapplied at least every two hours and after swimming or sweating. Water-resistant sunscreens stay effective for 40 or 80 minutes while swimming or sweating. But no sunscreen is completely waterproof.

For maximum effect, approximately one teaspoon of sunscreen should be applied to the face and neck and one to each arm while two teaspoons should be applied to the torso and two to each leg.

When using both sunscreen and insect repellent, the sunscreen should be applied first. Applying the insect repellent chemical DEET after sunscreen has been shown to reduce the SPF of the sunscreen. But applying sunscreen secondarily can cause too much DEET to be absorbed. The use of products that combine sunscreen with insect repellent is not recommended as the sunscreen may need to be reapplied more often and in greater amounts than the insect repellent.

Sara H. Byrd