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80 Percent of sunscreens aren’t doing what they are supposed to do

We’re often told by the media and our mothers to always wear some form of sunscreen when we go outside. But what if the sunscreen we put on is not nearly as effective or safe as it claims to be? A new, terrifying study reveals this may be the case more often than not.

A new study conducted by researchers at the Environmental Working Group says 80 percent of sunscreen products on the market today aren’t protecting you from the sun the way they should. And yes, that includes many SPF-infused moisturizers and lip balms. Not only that, but several chemicals found in some of the most well-known sunscreen brands could be doing serious harm to your body.

More: A complete sunscreen guide for summer

The research they conducted was pretty extensive too. They looked at 1,700 SPF products from a broad range of brands and tested their overall effectiveness using several factors. Of course they studied how well each held up against UVA and UVB rays as well as balance between the two. They also explored each product’s active ingredients and application method, which determine how well they hold up over long exposure to the sun. What they discovered was pretty terrifying — the most popular products on the market are some of the worst products you can use to protect yourself from the sun.

EWG points fingers at major brands like Coppertone, Banana Boat and CVS, but makes the biggest stink over Neutrogena’s spray sunscreen. This was quite troubling to me, because I totally fell for the advertising that touts it as the “#1 Dermatologist Recommended Suncare Brand.” The brand’s spray products received the lowest ratings from this organization’s research for many reasons, but especially because of its false advertising. Neutrogena claims to provide super-high SPFs, but according to the FDA, all sun-protecting benefits max out once you hit SPF 50.

MoreDangerous sunscreen faux pas

But that’s just the beginning of its dangers. According to the EWG, “More than 80 percent of Neutrogena’s products contain oxybenzone, a hormone-disrupting sunscreen filter, and one-third contain retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A linked to skin damage.” Not to mention that many of the products come in a spray, which the FDA deems an ineffective application method for sunscreen. It can also be quite harmful, as spray droplets can be inhaled, and the sunscreen chemicals can get into the lungs and bloodstream.

Neutrogena is far from the only sunscreen brand that’s guilty of such false advertising, though. EWG’s research shows that only 21 percent of sunscreens on the market actually do what they claim to and are sufficiently effective at protecting against the sun. Most sunscreen brands you know are in the same boat (including Banana Boat). Here’s a list of some of the biggest offenders.

MoreSunscreen alert: Reduce your exposure to toxic chemicals

Sunscreen Hall of Shame

Spray sunscreens

Banana Boat Clear UltraMist Ultra Defense MAX Skin Protect Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 110

Coppertone Sport High Performance AccuSpray Sunscreen, SPF 70

CVS Sheer Mist Spray Sunscreen, SPF 70

Neutrogena Fresh Cooling Sunscreen Body Mist, SPF 70

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen Spray, SPF 100+

Lotion sunscreens

Banana Boat Sport Performance Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 100

Coppertone Sport High Performance Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 100

CVS Sun Lotion Sunscreen, SPF 100

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Liquid Daily Sunscreen, SPF 70

Kids’ sunscreens

Banana Boat Clear UltraMist Kids Max Protect & Play Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 110

Coppertone Kids Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70

Coppertone Water Babies Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70+

Kroger Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70

Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Beach & Pool Sunblock Spray, SPF 70+

*Check out the whole list here. Basically anything in a spray, with a ridiculously high SPF and the chemicals oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate is a big no-no. However, there are over 200 lesser-known brands that actually do what they claim to on their labels. Here’s a small sampling of EWG’s best.

Most effective sunscreens

Adorable Baby Clear Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30+

All Terrain AquaSport Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30

Badger All-Season Face Stick, Unscented, SPF 35

California Baby Super Sensitive Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30+

Goddess Garden Everyday Natural Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30

Juice Beauty Sport Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30

MDSolarSciences Mineral Crème Sunscreen, SPF 50
Raw Elements USA Eco Formula, SPF 30
Seventh Generation Baby Sunscreen, SPF 30
The Honest Company Honest Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
Tropical Sands All Natural Biodegradable Sunscreen, Coconut Scent, SPF 30
True Natural Ultra Protect 50 Antioxidant Sunscreen, Natural Coconut, SPF 50
*These are just 12 of 217 products deemed best for sun protection and your skin by EWG. See all of them here. The site also tells you which SPF-infused lotion and lip moisturizer products are best to use. If you can’t find any of them at your local store, stick to these guidelines: a lotion sunscreen with an SPF of 15 to 50 that contains zinc oxide, 3 percent avobenzone or Mexoryl SX and that is free of retinyl palmitate or retinol.
Sun protection is serious business, especially in the summer, when you’re spending more time outside, so be smart about what you put on your skin and on your children’s skin.

Image: Giphy

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