Posted on by Paula Gallagher
The Environmental Working Group's 15th Annual Guide to Sunscreens can help you choose safe and effective sun protection for you and your loved ones. EWG rates thousands of sunscreens from 0 to 10. This is known as the ingredient hazard score and reflects known and suspected hazards of ingredients. The safest products are rated 0 to 2 (green). Products that are rated 3 to 6 (yellow) have moderate hazards to health, and from 7 to 10 (red) are considered high hazards to health.
Since EWG started the guide in 2007, there has been good progress in the sunscreen market. Two notable changes have been the increase in mineral sunscreens and the number of products that filter harmful UVA rays. There has been a doubling of mineral sunscreens from 17% to 34% between 2007 and 2017. Mineral-based sunscreens use zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide to protect against the sun. These two natural sunblocks are stable in sunlight, offer a good balance between protection from the two types of ultraviolet radiation, UVA and UVB, and don’t often contain potentially harmful additives. Also, back in 2007 there were no legal requirements that sunscreens shield against lower-energy UVA rays. In 2011, the FDA enacted the first ever sunscreen rules that required sunscreens advertising “broad spectrum” to pass a test, and nearly all sunscreens sold today include an ingredient that filters UVA rays.
Although there has been definite progress, there are still many concerns regarding safe sunscreens. One concern is the misleading high SPF values. High SPF values do not necessarily offer greater protection and may lead consumers to spend too much time in the sun. In 2007, only 10 sunscreens in the guide claimed SPF 70 and higher, but this year there are 61 products making such claims, including 15 products advertised as SPF 100 or higher. Another concern is that use of sunscreen sprays are on the rise. Although they seem to offer convenience, they may pose an inhalation risk and may not provide a coating on the skin that is even and thick enough to provide adequate protection. In 2011, the FDA raised similar concerns. Lotions, creams and sticks may seem messier, but they provide better coverage and are safer to use, especially with children.
Sunscreen should be part of your summer routine, but it should only be one of many tools you use when it comes to sun protection. Here are other important tips that to help protect against harmful sun rays.
Sun Protection Tips
1. Cover up
Shirts, hats, shorts and pants shield your skin from the sun’s UV rays, reducing burn risk by 27%.
2. Find shade
Picnic under a tree, read beneath an umbrella or take a canopy to the beach. Keep infants in the shade – they lack the tanning pigments, known as melanin, that protect skin.
3. Plan around the sun
Go outdoors in early morning or late afternoon, when the sun is lower. UV radiation peaks at midday.
4. Wear sunglasses
Sunglasses aren’t just a fashion accessory. Good shades protect your eyes from UV radiation that causes cataracts.
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