Summer is almost here! Time for picnics, BBQs, days in the pool and, of course, sunscreen to keep skin safe from the damaging rays of the sun.
The Environment Working Group (EWG) recently released its 2019 guide to sunscreen. The guide has been published since 2007 to advise consumers on the safest and most effective sunscreens. The EWG has also tried to push the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to “update and improve sunscreen regulations, urging the agency to set stricter standards to better protect public health.”
One of the concerning ingredients in many sunscreens is oxybenzone, a potentially hormone-disrupting chemical that is readily absorbed into the body. In 2008, the EWG called on the FDA to investigate the safety of oxybenzone, and while the agency did do some testing, more needs to be done to determine the dangers of this chemical, especially its effects on children. But currently, it is still one of the most commonly used active ingredients and was found in two-thirds of the products tested in the 2019 sunscreen study.
Don't rely on an SPF over 50
Another issue the FDA is addressing is the SPF safety rating system currently used by sunscreen manufacturers. In this year’s guide, the EWG found that more than 10 percent of sunscreens claim to have an SPF of 50 or higher. According to the EWG website, the FDA says, “Higher sun protection factor values, or SPF, have not been shown to provide additional clinical benefit and may provide users with a false sense of security. To guard against this misconception, the agency proposes limiting products’ SPF claims to 60+.”
Skip the spray
Spray sunscreens are also a major concern. Due to the convenience and perceived ease of application, use of spray sunscreens is on the rise. More than a quarter of the sunscreens in the guide were in a spray form. The EWG has expressed safety concerns about spray sunscreens. In addition to a risk of inhalation, sprays tend to be less effective than lotions because there is more of a chance of improper or incomplete application leaving skin unprotected.
Don't forget cloudy days
Remember, sunscreen needs to be adequately applied and re-applied throughout the day, even the waterproof or water-resistant kind. Sunscreen is necessary whenever your child is outside, not just when they are going to the pool, beach or park. While clouds filter the sun's rays, children still need sunscreen for production on cloudy days.
Get the right gear
The EWG is quick to point out that sunscreen is actually the last resort when it comes to protecting our skin from the sun. More effective methods include wearing protective clothing, including hats, pants, shorts and shirts which reduce burn risk. There are some clothes with UV protection, so read labels. Also, encourage children to wear sunglasses to protect their eyes. The EWG also suggests limiting sun exposure during the peak late morning/afternoon hours, checking the UV index daily and staying in the shade when you are outdoors.
The EWG’s best-scoring sunscreens for kids:
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