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Only 25 Percent of Sunscreens Include ‘Safe Ingredients’ and Offer Adequate Protection, Report Shows

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Dermatologists and skin experts have consistently drilled the importance of wearing sunscreen daily. While you may assume that any SPF is better than none, not all sunscreens are made the same—some include risky ingredients or offer very little true broad-spectrum protection. Luckily, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) continues to share its research to help guide you toward the sunscreen products that will keep you healthy and safe from the sun. The EWG’S 2022 Guide to Sunscreens, which looked at over 1,850 SPF products, found that only a few more than 280 sunscreens met the rigorous standards.

After looking at almost 2,000 products, including recreational sunscreens and daily-use moisturizers and lip balms with SPF, EWG found that about 75 percent of sunscreens have inferior sun protection or potentially harmful ingredients. “Some ingredients commonly found in sunscreens have been linked to both human and environmental concerns,” Carla Burns, EWG senior director for cosmetic science, said in a statement. “We slather these ingredients on our skin, but many of these chemicals haven’t been adequately tested.” 

Many products didn’t meet EWG’s standards because they included any worrisome ingredients, such as oxybenzone and homosalate, both of which can disrupt hormones. In March 2021, the European Commission found that oxybenzone is unsafe for use at a concentration of up to six percent. In June 2021, the European Commission also found that homosalate is unsafe for use at any currently allowed levels.

“The long-term use of these chemicals, and especially chemicals not adequately tested for safety, could be problematic,” said Burns. “It’s gratifying to see companies continue to reformulate their SPF products to move away from these concerning ingredients.” The number of sunscreen products that include oxybenzone is going down. The EWG found the ingredient in 30 percent of non-mineral sunscreens, which is a significant drop from the 60 percent it was in just three years ago. Many of the passing products featured safer ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

Another requirement for meeting EWG’s standards is that the sunscreen provides solid broad-spectrum coverage, protecting against both UVA and UVB rays. In October 2021, the EWG performed a study that found that many SPFs actually offer just a quarter of the protection the packaging advertises against ultraviolet A rays, which increase the risk of skin cancer.

To ensure that the sunscreen you’re purchasing provides broad-spectrum protection and features safe ingredients, comb through the EWG’s 2022 Sunscreen Guide. You can search sunscreens or scan the lists of the best-rated SPF products to find the perfect match for you.

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