Your Sunscreen Won’t Kill You

Worried about where your sunscreen is in the new Environmental Working Group sunscreens ranking ? Do not. The list is not backed up by rigorous science, and any small risks that may exist are still far outweighed by the benefits of using sunscreen.

The American Academy of Dermatology , for example, wants to clarify the truth : yes, sunscreens are safe . Even with oxybenzone . Even with vitamin A. Even with nanoparticles . Dermatologists review the EWG’s sunscreen report every year, but the EWG keeps repeating the same mistakes.

It’s the same with news organizations. Jones’s mother, for example, wrote: ” Most sunscreens are bad, but these 7 brands are the worst .” They echoed the EWG’s claims without ever getting a quote from anyone outside the EWG. If they did, they would know that the sunscreen rankings are based on tiny science, a lot of alarmists, and questionable methodology – just like the EWG’s other stardom of fame, its Dirty Dozen vegetables suspected of containing pesticides.

Here are some reasons the EWG approach should n’t scare you away from your favorite sunscreen:

  • They give high “hazard ratings” to products with an SPF over 50. The FDA doesn’t like high SPF labels , but that’s only because 100 is not better than 50, and they are concerned that people will think 100 is better. This doesn’t make sunscreen dangerous, but the EWG pretends it is.
  • They give high “hazard ratings” to products containing certain ingredients, regardless of their quantity. Almost everything in the world is safe at a fairly low dose and unsafe at a sufficiently large dose. If you don’t look at the amount, you cannot pretend that you are measuring security.
  • Ingredients that they consider “troublesome” are considered safe by real dermatologists. The Skin Cancer Foundation has a rundown of the main complaints from the EWG , which notes that the evidence does not support the concerns.

Research into the safety of sunscreens is of course ongoing, and the FDA is asking manufacturers to provide even more data on the safety of sunscreens . We also don’t know if spray sunscreens are safe to inhale, so it’s best not to spray them on children or on your face . If the EWG focused on these small but real issues, it would help educate people. But they would prefer to list the “best” and “worst” foods in a category that lacks scientific evidence to suggest that any of them are hazardous to human health.

Sure, you say, but what if all those dermatologists are all in the pocket of a big sunscreen? First, it isn’t – here’s one of those reporting zero conflicts of interest while writing about the sunscreen controversy. But the EWG is there . They make money selling you the “safe” sunscreens of their choice , and they make money selling the “EWG Verified” stamp to companies whose products rank well in their database. In other words, a clear conflict of interest. Don’t buy ratings. Do you buy sunscreen and use it appropriately .

Photo by Joe Slabotnik .


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