New Study Says Most Sunscreens Won't Meet the FDA's New Guidelines

Not all sunscreen is made equal.

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Now that we're finally on the cusp of summer, we all need a reminder about how important it is to wear sunscreen, including when it's cloudy out. In addition to reducing your risk of skin cancer, sunscreen helps ward off signs of aging…or so we thought. According to a new report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) obtained by CNN, most sunscreens on the market would not pass the Federal Drug Administration's (FDA) new potential safety guidelines.

In February, the FDA proposed updating its regulatory requirements for most sunscreen products. The proposed guidelines include labeling four ingredients—avobenzone, oxybenzone, ecamsule, and octocrylene (which has been linked to lower testosterone levels in men and shorter pregnancies in women)—as unsafe after learning that they're absorbed into the bloodstream after just one day of use. (While further research needs to be done to confirm that these chemicals are, indeed, harmful, it's probably best to avoid them until they've been found to be safe for general use.)

The FDA also proposed raising the maximum SPF value from 50 to 60, and requiring all sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher include broad spectrum protection. The latter is important, given that many popular sunscreens only offer protection from UVB rays but not UVA rays. But too much exposure to either can cause skin cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic.

In anticipation of these changes, consumer advocacy company EWP analyzed more than 1,300 beach and sport sunscreens, and found that more than 60 percent of them did not offer enough protection from harmful UV rays or contained dangerous chemicals to meet the proposed FDA requirements. This figure matches the results of last year's EWG report, which found that two-thirds of the 650 SPF products that were examined did not offer enough sun protection, contained oxybenzone, or contained retinyl palmitate (which could increase the development of skin tumors).

The EWP's report—which will be officially released next week—is unique in that it tested the products according to these recent FDA safety guidelines for the first time. "Even though we've come up with similar results in our guide before, comparing it to the FDA's actual proposed standards is really strong," Nneka Leiba, who leads EWG's Healthy Living Science team, told CNN. "So the fact that 60 percent of the market seemingly wouldn't be considered safe and effective by the FDA is a huge deal."

And for more on how to get the most protection from your SPF products, find out Why You're Applying Sunscreen All Wrong.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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