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Good Sunscreens, Bad Sunscreens

If you want to avoid bad sunscreens – those that don’t work, and even those that may actively be harmful to your health, beyond simply failing to block the sun – you should avoid nearly ALL sunscreens.

It’s that drastic a situation, according to the Environmental Working Group, which has been assessing sunscreens (since the government won’t do it properly) for four years now.

The EWG recommends just 8% of 500 beach and sport sunscreens on the market this season. There are several reasons so many sunscreens fail in the eyes of EWG, starting with this biggie: An ingredient found in nearly half of all sunscreen products may accelerate growth of skin tumors.

The ingredient is a vitamin A compound called retinyl palmitate, found in a slew of beauty products for its skin-rejuvenation properties. But studies that go back as far as the late 1970s show a link between it and photocarcinogenesis in rats and mice. A 2000 overview of such studies, conducted by the National Toxicology Program (pdf), details the findings and says they’re inconclusive.

But the EWG says it’s too risky a gamble and consumers should avoid sunscreens containing retinyl palmitate or even any vitamin A.

Other reasons sunscreens didn’t make the cut include overinflated SPF claims (EWG says in everyday practice, a product labeled SPF 100 really performs like SPF 3.2) and/or the inclusion of the hormone-disrupting compound oxybenzone among their ingredients.

So which sunscreens can we trust? Go to the EWG site to see the full recommended-sunscreen list, which includes the likes of Loving Naturals SPF 30+, All Terrain Aquasport Performance Sunscreen, Soleo Organics All Natural Sunscreen, and Badger Sunscreen for Face and Body.

Or you could avoid the sun as much as possible and wear a hat and shirt when you can’t. (Advice from the pasty.)

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“Good Sunscreens, Bad Sunscreens”

  1. Anonymous Kristen Hawk Says:

    Thanks for this informative article. My friends and I were just discussing this! I obviously can't avoid the sun in Hawaii, but I am happy to have a list of sunblocks that will do their job and not hurt us!
    Thankd Kyle!