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Report: Most Sunscreens Are Bad, But These 7 Brands Are the Worst

Mother Jones

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Memorial Day is the unofficial kick off to summer, when our calendars fill up with beach days and we begin the obligatory slopping on of sunscreen.

Whether you’re putting it on yourself or someone else, the importance of sunscreen has been drilled into most of us from an early age. But choosing a bottle to throw in your beach bag can be pretty overwhelming. We have more products to choose from, each with different claims such as “broad spectrum”or “UVB protection.” For ten years, the Environmental Working Group has published a list of the best and worst products for shielding against the sun’s harsh rays. Here are some key takeaways, followed by the 2016 list.

Many products offer poor protection. This year, the group looked at more than 750 products and concluded that nearly 75 percent of them offered poor protection or had ingredients the group found “worrisome.” For example, oxybenzone is a sunscreen additive that the working group says is a hormone disrupter and allergen.

Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst for the Environmental Working Group, says it’s a good thing that the number of mineral-only products has doubled since 2007, rising from 17 percent of products to 34 percent in 2016. These sunscreens, which offer protection against both UVA and UVB, generally don’t contain harmful additives.

We are still waiting for those SPF 50+ rules. While we no longer see claims like “sweat proof” and “water proof” on sunscreen (the FDA said they were too far-reaching), the agency’s proposed regulation that would cap SPF numbers at 50+ hasn’t kicked in yet. In 2011, the FDA stated that anything higher than that number is “inherently misleading.” In this year’s report, the Environmental Working Group found that 61 sunscreen products had an SPF higher than 50, as opposed to just 10 products in 2007. (We’ve reported about sunscreen companies’ misleading claims in the past, and my colleague Kiera Butler wrote about some ingredients that may actually speed up the development of skin cancer.)

Spray-on sunscreen may offer less protection. Because spray-on sunscreens evaporate quickly, Lunder said, it’s hard to tell if you’ve covered your whole body.

“We think, ‘I can get it on my kids faster,'” she said. “But that really doesn’t hold up in the real world, there’s evidence that they aren’t using as much and aren’t getting that thickness on their skin.”

The important thing to remember, the group says, is that sunscreen alone won’t do the job, and that we tend to give it more importance than we should. Hats, sunglasses, time in the shade and other essentials are also key for protecting against sun damage.

Here’s is the group’s list of the best and worst sunscreens of 2016:

(In no particular order)

The Best for Adults*

The organization rated sunscreens from 1 to 10 (products with 1’s were excellent and ones with 10’s were the worst). Just over 60 brands received a score of 1 or 2. These were designated “low hazard” for their ingredient list and because they had a good balance of SPF and UVA protection. Find the full list here.

All Good Sunscreen and Sunstick, SPF 30 and 50
All Terrain Aqua and TerraSport Sunscreens, SPF 30
Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen, SPF 30
Badger Sunscreen Cream and Lotion, SPF 25, 30, and 35
Bare Belly Organics, SPF 34
Beauty Without Cruelty, SPF 30
Kiss My Face Organics Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 30
Nature’s Gate Face Sunscreen, SPF 25
Tropical Sands Sunscreen and Facestick, SPF 30
Releve Organic Skincare, SPF 20
Star Naturals Sunscreen Stick, SPF 25

(*The group did not release a list of the worst sunscreens for adults.)

The Best for Kids

Adorable Baby Sunscreen lotion, SPF 30
All Good Kid’s Sunscreen, SPF 33
All Terrain KidSport Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
ATTITUDE Little Ones 100% Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 30
BabyHampton Beach Bum Sunscreen, SPF 30
COOLA Suncare Baby Mineral Sunscreen, unscented moisturizer, SPF 50.
Belly Button & Babies Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30.
Blue Lizard Austrailian Sunscreen, SPF 35.
BurnOut Kids Physical Sunscreen, SPF 35
California Baby Super Sensitive Sunscreen, SPF 30
Goddess Garden Kids Sport Natural Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
Jersey Kids Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
Kiss My Face Organics Kids Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 30
Nurture My Body Baby Organic Sunscreen, SPF 32
Substance Baby Natural Sun Care Creme, SPF 30
Sunology Natural Sunscreen, Kids, SPF 50
Sunumbra Sunkids Natural Sunscreen, SPF 40
Thinksport for Kids Sunscreen, SPF 50
TruKid Sunny Days Sport Sunscreen, SPF 30

The Worst for Kids

On the 1 to 10 scale, the below products scored a 7 or higher (with 10 being the worst) because they made high SPF claims or had higher amounts of the additives oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate.

Banana Boat Kids Max Protect & Play Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 100**
Coppertone Water Babies Sunscreen Stick, Wacky Foam, and Sunscreen lotion, SPF 55
CVS Baby Sunstick Sunscreen and Spray, SPF 55
Equate Kids Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55
Hampton Sun Continuous Mist Sunscreen For Kids, SPF 70
Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Sunscreen Spray and Stick products, SPF 70
Up & Up Kids Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55

**This was the only product that got a 10.

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Report: Most Sunscreens Are Bad, But These 7 Brands Are the Worst

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