Every year since 2007, the Environmental Working Group has tested all major sunscreen brands in the U.S. to see which ones live up to their claims and which ones are actually doing more harm than good. They keep track of trends in the industry and make recommendations that both the average person and the FDA listen to.
What is the Environmental Working Group and why should I care?
Commonly called EWG, the Environmental Working Group is a non-profit, non-partisan group of scientists, lawyers, and policy experts that work to protect the environment and human health. Their research has let consumers be able to make more informed decisions about what they buy, and pressured companies selling dangerous products to make changes.
Why do I need to be worried about my sunscreen?
We have all had the idea repeated over and over to us over the last few decades that sunscreen is absolutely necessary to prevent sun damage and cancer from over exposure. This is absolutely true, but the FDA has not done a good enough job that all of the ingredients in these sunscreen are tested for efficacy and safety.
They may have not much on this issue for the public so far, but the FDA has just recently decided that it should be testing the active ingredients in sunscreen. The only actives ingredients they are confident are safe are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. There are a total of 12 other active ingredients they think could be dangerous and need to be tested further! Also, there are two ingredients that were commonly used, PABA and trolamine salicylate, that they have already decided are unsafe based on scientific literature.
Is the most common sunscreen ingredient dangerous to children?
Oxybenzone is the active ingredient in over 60% of sunscreens of non-mineral sunscreens on the market. EWG has requested that the FDA investigates the dangers of oxybenzone because of it's scary ability to easily pass through the skin and affect the human endocrine system. The FDA has agreed because although oxybenzone has had a lot of scientific research done on it, it has shown some health effects so far.
Oxybenzone is allergenic, affects the hormone system, and can be detected long after application in blood, urine, and amniotic fluid. What makes it worse is that these effects are worse on children, who are smaller and more delicate than the average adult. Even knowing this it can still be found in some kid's sunscreens!
Some other sunscreens are being investigated too...
The potentially dangerous ingredients are already a lot to avoid, but the EWG recommended to the FDA that they limit SPF values to 60+ while also investigating the effects of spray sunscreen.
It is possible to reach SPF values higher than 60, but listing these extremely high numbers misleads customers into thinking they are getting much better protection. SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays, while SPF 50 blocks 98% of UVB rays. For most people there will be no significant difference. Also, SPF is not the only factor that determines how much sun the sunscreen will protect you from.
When it comes to spray sunscreen, the FDA wants to know whether the accidental inhalation could cause permanent damage. Spray sunscreens are definitely convenient and now make up about 25% of the sunscreens available. EWG recommends that everyone stays away from sprays until they have been studied much more thoroughly.
So how do I protect my skin safely?
There are a few factors to consider when choosing a sunscreen for yourself and your family. The basics are the UVA/UVB protection and ratio. Then you should check for the health hazards in the ingredient list. You can research each ingredient on your own, but the EWG makes it easier by publishing a rating for all sunscreens on a scale from 1-10. 1 is the safest and most effective, while 10 is dangerous and to be completely avoided. Our Fragrance Free Natural Sunscreen and Fragrance Free Natural Baby Sunscreen were thoroughly tested and both received a perfect score of 1, making them among the best sunscreens available right now.