Sunscreen Facts – What You Don't Know Can Hurt You and Your Children

News reports are abundant concerning a recent study conducted on the sunscreen industry. The Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based nonprofit, has released an investigation of nearly 1,000 brand-name sunscreens that says that “Only 15% met the panel’s criteria for safety and effectiveness”, and “that 4 out of 5 don’t adequately protect consumers and may contain ingredients with significant known or suspected health hazards.” The report continues: “Some of the products of the nation’s leading brands are the worst offenders.”

Coppertone was named by the Environmental Working Group as having 41 products that failed to meet the group’s criteria for safety and effectiveness for issues ranging from failing to protect adequately to containing potentially harmful ingredients to making unsubstantiated claims. Only 1 of 103 products from Banana Boat and Neutrogena — the second- and third-largest manufacturers is recommended by EWG.

EWG is asking these questions for consumers and pushing the FDA to finalize comprehensive sunscreen safety standards it bagan drafting 30 years ago:

– Does it adequately protect from the damaging rays of the sun? Skin cancers are the fastest growing type of cancer in the United States. Skin cancer represents the most commonly diagnosed malignancy, surpassing lung, breast, colorectal and prostate cancer. More than 1 million Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in 2008. Overexposure to UV-radiation can cause skin cancer. UVA & UVB have both been implicated in causing DNA damage resulting in cancer.

EWG’s study revealed that 7 percent of high SPF sunscreens (SPF of at least 30) protect only from sunburn (UVB radiation), and do not contain ingredient combinations known to protect from UVA, the sun rays linked to skin damage and aging, immune system problems, and potentially skin cancer. FDA does not require that sunscreens guard against UVA radiation. So, apparently, most of them don’t.

– Does it include potentially harmful ingredients?
One example: Oxybenzone is a a popular chemical UV filter in many sunscreens. The Environmental Working Group says its analysis of hundreds of studies of more than a dozen sunscreen chemicals finds that oxybenzone can penetrate the skin and pose health concerns, anything from hormone disruption to cancer. Over 500 of the sunscreens studied contain Oxybenzone. Of the name-brand sunscreens investigated, over 700 are on the “caution” list for containing potentially hazardous ingredients.

EWG recommends looking for sunscreens containing physical blockers,such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide as a safer alternative.

– Does the sunscreen break down in the sun?
Many sunscreen ingredients break down in the sun, some in a matter of minutes, and then let UV radiation through to the skin. EWG’s analyses show that 48% of products on the market contain ingredients that may be unstable alone or in combination, raising questions about whether these products last as long as the label says. FDA has not proposed requirements for sunscreen stability.

– Does the product do what it claims on the label?
o Broad-spectrum protection
o All day protection
o Waterproof
o Chemical-free

Many products on the market bear claims that are considered “unacceptable” or misleading under FDA’s draft sunscreen safety standards. Claims like “all day protection,” “mild as water,” and “blocks all harmful rays” are not true, yet are found on bottles. Until the FDA sets an effective date for these standards, the industry is free to use hyped claims. Because of the lack of regulation, companies are free to make their own decisions on everything from advertising claims to product quality. Companies’ decisions to inflate claims has spurred class action lawsuits in California.


While the FDA has not regulated the industry adequately, fortunately, there is a sunscreen manufacturer that truly holds the welfare of the consumers and the integrity of their product in high regard. They use all natural, effective sunscreen ingredients that have been proven to be safe, they don’t test on animals, they insure that their manufacturing plant performs without chemical runoff, and at the same time, they provide a line of skincare and suncare products that is truly effective and aesthetically pleasing. Their products do what they claim on their labels, they don’t make misleading claims.

There ARE moisturizers and sunscreens produced from all natural ingredients that adequately protect from the sun with active ingredients that are not considered health hazards and inactive ingredients that are actually beneficial to your skin’s health. One manufacturer specifically has been providing these since 1992 and has marketed exclusively to resorts in tropical locations around the world. These products are now available online.

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