The white goop, creams and ointments might prevent sunburn. But don't count on them to keep the ultraviolet light from destroying your skin cells and causing tumors and lesions, according to researchers at Environmental Working Group.
In their annual report to consumers on sunscreen, they say that only 39 of the 500 products they examined were considered safe and effective to use.
The industry includes vitamin A in its sunscreen formulations because it is an anti-oxidant that slows skin aging.
But the EWG researchers found the initial findings of an FDA study of vitamin A's photocarcinogenic properties, meaning the possibility that it results in cancerous tumors when used on skin exposed to sunlight.
"People don't get the high SPF they pay for," the report says. "People apply about a quarter of the recommended amount. So in everyday practice, a product labeled SPF 100 really performs like SPF 3.2, an SPF 30 rating equates to a 2.3 and an SPF 15 translates to 2."
The full list of the best and worst sunscreens can be found on the EWG's searchable database (http://www.ewg.org/2010sunscreen/best-beach-sport-sunscreens/).
From the EWG:
The best sunscreen is a hat and a shirt. No chemicals to absorb through the skin, no questions about whether they work. But when you can’t get away from exposing your skin to the sun, use EWG’s top-rated sunscreens to provide broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB-sunburn) protection with fewer hazardous chemicals that penetrate the skin. Sunscreen makers are awaiting FDA approval for a wider selection of UVA-blocking chemicals. In the meantime, all top-rated products contain either zinc or titanium minerals to help cut UVA exposures for sunscreen users.
Choose from among our top-rated sunscreens for broad spectrum protection with fewer hazardous ingredients. And follow our sun safety tips to protect your skin for a lifetime.
Our top-rated sunscreens all contain the minerals zinc or titanium. They are the right choice for people who are looking for the best UVA protection without any sunscreen chemical considered to be a potential hormone disruptor. None of the products contain oxybenzone or vitamin A and none are sprayed or powdered.