A new report published from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) says that nearly two-thirds of all sunscreens evaluated in their “2019 Guide to Sunscreens” would not pass safety tests proposed by the US Food and Drug Administration. EWG will release its analysis as part of its 2019 Guide to Sunscreens, a yearly report on sunscreen safety that the nonprofit began in 2006.
In February, the FDA called for additional testing of a dozen common sunscreen ingredients after finding that high levels of four of them -- avobenzone, oxybenzone, ecamsule and octocrylene -- can enter a person's bloodstream after just one day of use. The chemicals remained in the body for at least 24 hours after the last sunscreen application.
The Environmental Working Group found that over two-thirds of the sunscreens in its 2018 report contain oxybenzone, often with varying mixtures of the other common chemicals.
The most-studied chemical in sunscreens, oxybenzone, has been linked to damage to coral reefs and marine life, as well as lower testosterone levels in adolescent boys, hormone changes in men, and shorter pregnancies and disrupted birth weights in babies. Researchers, however, caution about assuming a direct cause-and-effect relationship without further studies.
This year the group said it analyzed the ingredients and performance of more than 1,300 products with sun protection factor, or SPF; 750 of those are marketed as beach and sport sunscreens. The analysis involves only a fraction of the sunscreen products sold in the United States today, which the FDA estimates to number over 12,000.
As EWG has reported in the past, over 60% of the products evaluated do not offer adequate sun protection or contain potentially harmful chemicals. What makes this year's report different, said Director of Healthy Living Science Nneka Leiba, is that the 2019 products were judged using FDA safety guidelines proposed in February, that the standards for the 2019 guide were so much higher. “The fact that 60% of the market seemingly wouldn’t be considered safe and effective by the FDA is a huge deal.”
Though FDA study did not show that oxybenzone and the others in question can cause health issues, only that the chemicals could be absorbed, they suggest that consumers should be looking for zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which studies show are not absorbed into the skin.
The SPF you need every day is an SPF 30 or higher. That’s going to give you the protection you need and you don’t want to go any lower - it’s not going to be effective.
The EWG says, despite the challenges of the study, consumers still should continue to protect their skin from the sun and use caution when looking at ingredients.
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