In our nonstop mission to keep our families safe and healthy, I wanted to shed light—no pun intended—on an alarming truth: the vast majority of sunblocks lack comprehensive protection and carry toxic ingredients. Remember when choosing sunscreen was as easy as grabbing the nearest bottle with a high SPF? Boy, have times changed. Recently, I came across a study that made me rethink my sunscreen game. It turns out that the majority of sunscreens out there might not be doing the job as well as we’d hope, and some might even be packed with ingredients we should be wary of.
Unveiling the Complexities: The FDA’s Scrutiny and the Alarming Reality of Sunscreen Effectiveness
Remember how we used to trust labels like ‘FDA-approved’? Turns out, it’s not all black and white. As per the study, the FDA has flagged twelve ingredients commonly found in sunscreens for more thorough scrutiny. The concern here is whether these ingredients should be classified as GRASE, meaning ‘generally recognized as safe and effective’.
Here’s the kicker: the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit that’s been digging into sunscreens for the better part of two decades, has found that only one in four sunscreens provide the comprehensive protection we need without using potentially harmful chemicals.
But don’t throw out your beach bag just yet! There are some bright spots in this sunscreen saga. One key ingredient, oxybenzone, which is linked to health issues in humans and harm to coral reefs, is being used less and less. Back in 2019, it was in a whopping 60% of all sunscreens, but now it’s only found in about 6%. That’s progress!
Also, in their most recent review, the EWG gave a thumbs up to over 200 sunscreens for beach and recreational use. They found 51 products safe for our little ones and recommended 128 for everyday use.
But, like a game of whack-a-mole, as soon as one problem goes away, another pops up. Even with oxybenzone on the decline, many products on the market still contain those 12 ingredients that need further study.
The Essential Criteria: Understanding Sunscreen Selection Based on EWG’s Review
When it comes to choosing a sunscreen, the EWG’s review looked at four main things: protection from UVB and UVA rays, balance between the two, and the stability of the active ingredients. The bottom line is that we want broad-spectrum protection that can keep up with both types of rays—UVB that causes sunburn and UVA that goes deeper into the skin, potentially causing skin aging and cancer. Sadly, a good chunk of the sunscreens in the US might not meet European UVA protection standards.
Another critical aspect we need to think about is the environmental impact. Additionally, certain sunblock ingredients, such as oxybenzone and octinoxate, have been found to be detrimental to coral reefs. As a result, locations like Hawaii and Key West, Florida, have implemented bans on the sale of sunblocks containing these chemicals. However, it is important to exercise caution when relying solely on “reef-safe” or “reef-friendly” labels, as these terms are not regulated and do not guarantee the absence of all potentially harmful ingredients.
Given all this, the FDA is feeling the heat (again, no pun intended) to make sure sunblock products are safe. They proposed a new rule back in 2019 that would update regulatory requirements, but as of now, no final ruling has been made.
So, what’s a dad to do? Emily Spilman of the EWG advises choosing products with broad-spectrum protection, an SPF of 30 or higher, and containing only zinc oxide. Furthermore, it is crucial to avoid sunblocks that contain oxybenzone, vitamin A (retinyl palmitate), and added insect repellent.
Despite these revelations, let’s not forget: sunscreen is essential. Both the American Academy of Dermatology and the Skin Cancer Foundation strongly advocate that everyone should use sunscreen providing broad-spectrum protection, with an SPF of 30 or higher, and that’s water-resistant.
So, as we navigate this sea of sunscreen options, it’s clear we need more transparency and regulation. But for now, it’s on us to keep up with the research and make the best choices we can for our families. After all, being a dad is all about adapting and overcoming, right?
Until next time, stay safe and sunscreen-smart, folks!
- Bracho-Sanchez, Dr. Edith. “FDA Proposes New Sunscreen Regulations.” CNN, Cable News Network, 22 Feb. 2019, www.cnn.com/2019/02/21/health/fda-proposed-regulations-sunscreen/index.html. Accessed 15 July 2023.
- LaMotte, Sandee. “Summer Sunscreens for 2023, Ranked for Safety and Effectiveness.” CNN, Cable News Network, 23 May 2023, www.cnn.com/2023/05/23/health/sunscreen-guide-2023-wellness/index.html.
- Sunscreens, EWG’s Guide to. “EWG’s 17th Annual Guide to Sunscreen: EWG’s Guide to Sunscreens.” EWG’s 17th Annual Guide to Sunscreen | EWG’s Guide to Sunscreens, www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/executive-summary/.
- D’Orazio, John et al. “UV radiation and the skin.” International journal of molecular sciences vol. 14,6 12222-48. 7 Jun. 2013, doi:10.3390/ijms140612222
- US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Sunscreen Chemicals and Coral Reefs.” Skincare Chemicals and Marine Life, 1 Nov. 2018, oceanservice.noaa.gov/news/sunscreen-corals.html.
- Zraick, Karen. “Key West Bans Sunscreen Containing Chemicals Believed to Harm Coral Reefs.” The New York Times, 7 Feb. 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/02/07/us/sunscreen-coral-reef-key-west.html.
- “Sunscreen Faqs.” American Academy of Dermatology, www.aad.org/media/stats-sunscreen.