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Most Sunscreens Fail To Protect Your Skin From Sun

Armen Hareyan's picture

Most available sunscreens are found to be not that effective and safe as advertised when it comes to protecting your skin from the sun.

Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit organization, which decided to check the available sunscreen products for their efficiency and safety. The group examined 950 brand name sunscreen products, 400 published studies about these products and 60 national databases on information about what chemicals sunscreens contain and how toxic these chemicals can actually be.

Sunscreens were checked for effectiveness based on the following factors: ultraviolet-B (UVB) protection, ultraviolet-A (UVA) protection against the other type of skin cancer-causing rays; and ingredient stability.

UVB protection is indicated on each sunscreen pack by SPF rating, UVA protection is against skin cancer-causing sun rays, and ingredient stability means how long the sunscreen is active on skin.

There are currently three companies - Coppertone, Neutrogena, Banana Boat - which are top sunscreen product makers. This companies together offer 144 top selling products. Research found that only one sunscreen product out of these 144 is safe and effective. However, there are still 142 sunscreen products from other manufacturers that are found to be effective.

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Last year there was a similar study that published the list of the top 10 effective and safe sunscreen products, but the products were too expensive and were not widely available. This year’s results are more promising.

Study explains that the quality of sunscreen product depends on FDA requirements to the product. Since FDA has not yet clearly defined rules for qualifying sunscreens, there are no existing standards to pass before starting a mass production of these products.

In 1999 FDA started working on sunscreen requirements, but the agency stopped the process because UVA and UVB sun rays were not properly studied. There was lack of scientific information to clearly define sunscreen effectiveness.

In 2007 FDA published guidelines on how to use sunscreens and how to approximately measure effectiveness. Apart from SPF rating FDA introduced an additional 4 star rating for measuring protection against UVA rays.

FDA advises not to stay outdoors during the hours when sunrays are the most dangerous - from 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. FDA also advises to use sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, because these protect against UVA rays. Agency also advises to put creams on 30 minutes before going out and reapply it every 2 hours.

Now FDA has given an opportunity to all sunscreen users to post comments on products. Currently, there are about 20000 responses and FDA is sorting to comments to update the list of requirements. Besides, scientific background now allows to better examine sun rays, and FDA will be able to issue standards for sunscreen manufacturers.

However, despite of worrying data from this research, Environmental Working Group advises everyone that sunscreens are very important for protecting skin against cancer. Public should not be just scared of using sunscreens, but should be attentive on what exactly to use and always remember that skin health protection is very important during summer.