It’s the end of July, my Facebook feed is filled with vacation pics, and I am grappling with a serious case of FOMO. If lucky you is headed to the beach, and you are in the market for sunscreen, you might want to check out the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) 10th annual sunscreen guide and the Consumer Reports article about how to get the best sun protection.
The EWG tests hundreds of sunscreens and skin care products with SPF every year. The organization gives each product an overall score of 1 to 10, with 1 being the best. The score is based on six criteria, including the ultraviolet (UV) protection it offers and the ingredients listed on the label.
About a week before the EWG report dropped, Consumer Reports published research that found out of the more than 60 sunscreens tested, a whopping 43 percent did not meet the SPF claims on the label. Eek!
So what is a sun safety-obsessed girl to do? I asked Dr. Barry Resnik, medical director of the Resnik Skin Institute, and Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst with the EWG, for their best advice.
1. First of all, keep this information in perspective. These reports kind of exist in a vacuum, said Resnik. He went on to say, “I think we should be focusing on getting people to have better application habits versus worrying about ingredients or SPF numbers, because if you put the stuff on incorrectly, or forget to reapply, I don’t care what’s in it, its not gonna help you!”
2. Avoid high SPF numbers (above 50). The way sunscreens are marketed draw attention to the wrong issues, said Lunder. For example, “We’re led to believe higher SPF numbers are better than lower ones, and don’t realize that covering up is a more reliable form of protecting your skin.” So…
3. Cover up! Wear hats, sunglasses, and sun protective clothing.
4. Make sure your sunscreen offers broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection. Unfortunately, fewer UVA-filtering chemicals are available in the U.S. versus Europe, Resnik said. He recommends you look for Helioplex, found in Neutrogena products, and Mexoryl, which is found in sunscreens by LaRoche-Posay.
5. Remember that the perfect sunscreen is kind of a unicorn. Resnik said as a dermatologist, people often ask him what his favorite sunscreen is. His response? “The one you like to use, and will remember to reapply frequently!”
The EWG wants people to buy and use products they like and that smell and feel good, said Lunder. The organization also wants to help educate consumers about the fact that sunscreen rubs off and breaks down. “Products cannot last more than two hours on your skin,” Lunder said. So you need to reapply every 90 minutes or so.
I admit I’ve tried to be more diligent about sunscreen the older I get, but sometimes I’ll just grab the first bottle that says “SPF,” or I’ll get down to my car in the parking garage and realize I’m not wearing SPF. Does that ever happen to you? Let me know in the comments!
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