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Part Two: Sunscreen and Hazardous Ingredients: How to pick the best ones!

Sunscreen and Hazardous Ingredients: How to pick the best ones

You may want to be careful when selecting a sunscreen this summer: About two-thirds of sunscreens available in the U.S. offer sub-par protection or contain ingredients that may harm your health, a new report finds.

The report, from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), reviewed 650 beach and sport sunscreens for the group's annual Guide to Sunscreens, released on May 22. EWG is a nonprofit advocacy organization in Washington, D.C., that focuses on environmental issues and public health.

The researchers ranked sunscreens based on several criteria, including whether ingredients listed in the products are linked with health hazards and how well the products worked to block ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, both of which can damage skin and cause skin cancer.

Many sunscreens in the United States fail to offer optimal protection against UVA rays, which don't necessarily cause sunburns but may cause skin aging and increase the risk of skin cancer, the EWG said. Although most sunscreens sold today meet current standards set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for UVA protection, only about half of these sunscreens could be sold in Europe, where UVA protection standards are higher, EWG said.

Hazardous ingredients

Hazardous Ingredients

One concerning finding is that nearly 65 percent of the nonmineral sunscreens contained oxybenzone, a chemical that may act as a hormone disruptor.  Scientists found that oxybenzone absorbs into the skin and is present in urine long after sunscreen is applied, so some researchers have suggested not using sunscreens containing this chemical on children, according to the EWG report.  Also, sunscreens contained oxybenzone has been found to damage coral reefs. (Mineral sunscreens, which contain ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, protect the skin through a different mechanism than nonmineral sunscreens use.) Recently, Hawaii lawmakers took steps to ban sunscreens containing oxybenzone due to the chemicals' effects on coral, although Hawaii's governor has not yet signed the bill into law.

Another concerning sunscreen ingredient is a form of vitamin A called retinyl palmitate, which has been linked with skin tumors in animal studies, the EWG said. Although the percentage of sunscreens containing retinyl palmitate has dropped by more than 50 percent since 2010, about 12 percent of sunscreens still contain the ingredient, the EWG said.

So next time you are heading out into the sun, make sure you read your sunscreen label and look for hazardous ingredients before you put them on your skin. You might just have to buy a new bottle! 

Learn more...Part Three: Sun advice: SPF values and how to apply sunscreen for the best protection 

Credits: Kristina Grifantini, Rachael Rettner, Bahar Gholipour, Live Science Health 


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