The Environmental Working Group just released their much-anticipated annual Guide to Sunscreens— and, based on their report, you have plenty of reasons to be wary when shopping the sunscreen aisle.
In their research, which rates nearly 1,500 sunscreens, moisturizers and lip balms, they found that a whopping 73 percent of the products rate poorly, either because they contain ingredients EWG considers worrisome or because they simply don’t work well. Womp, womp.
EWG ranks sunscreens based on five factors: health hazards associated with the ingredients; UVB protection; UVA protection; balance of UVA/UVB protection; and sunscreen stability, meaning how quickly ingredients break down in the sun. (You can read their full methodology here.) Then, the products are ranked in four categories: Best Beach and Sport Sunscreens, Best Moisturizers with SPF, Best Scoring Kids Sunscreens and Worst Scoring Kids Sunscreens.
You can see the hazard scores for each of the Beach and Sport Sunscreens — from top-rated to lowest-rated — here, but a quick glance shows that sunscreen products from many of the grocery-store standbys (think: Neutrogena, Aveeno, Hawaiian Tropic and more) land on the back end of the list.
EWG notes that mineral sunscreens, a category that’s grown in the past few years, tend to rate well, thanks to their stability, balance in protection between UVA and UVB rays, and because they aren’t loaded with harmful additives. They also warn against choosing a sunscreen simply because it boasts a high SPF. As EWG senior scientist David Andrews said in a press release, “High SPF is a marketing gimmick. SPF values over 50 mislead people into thinking they are completely protected from sunburn and long-term skin damage. But instead, they may encourage people to spend more time in the sun, exposing themselves to more, not less, ultraviolet rays.”
You can work your way through the products rated in each of their sunscreen categories on your own here. And now that you’re prepared with the knowledge you need for shopping sunscreens, here’s to hoping the sun actually comes out at some point.
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