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.
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.
Sunscreen Hall of Shame
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+
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
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