EWG's Sunscreen Guide Outs Brands For False Protection Claims; Which Can You Trust?

Neutrogena sunscreen
More than half of sunscreens available on American shelves wouldn't meet other countries' high standards of protection. Mike Mozart, CC BY 2.0

The American Academy of Dermatology reports more than 3.5 million skin cancers are diagnosed each year, many of which could be avoided with the proper protection. This includes sunscreen — but according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), not just any sunscreen.

The EWG recently released the ninth edition of its annual sunscreen guide, reporting 80 percent of 1,700 sunscreens on the American market “offer inferior sun protection or contain worrisome ingredients.” While the EWG goes on to call out several offending sunscreens (listed below), Neutrogena’s products in particular stood out. Despite their claims to be the#1 dermatologist recommended sun care brand,” all four of Neutrogena’s sun care products rate in the red, or worst, zone of EWG’s database.

“Neutrogena’s ‘Pure Free Baby’ sunscreen claims ‘special protection from the sun and irritating chemicals’ and ‘hypoallergenic,’ but it contains a preservative called methylisothiazolinone, or MI, that some researchers call a potent allergen and that is deemed unsafe in Europe,” the guide explained.

Additionally, some of Neutrogena’s products are labeled SPF 70, though the federal Food and Drug administration said the SPF benefits “max out” at 50. Not to mention a large amount of their products contain oxybenzone, “a hormone-disrupting sunscreen filter.”

Sunscreens are considered the worst if they come in spray form, which can be inhaled; offer SPF values above 50+; and/or harmful ingredients, such as oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate. The latter is believed to trigger skin damage, even cancer. The EWG estimates more than half of the sunscreens on the American market would not be allowed on European store shelves, which typically meet “higher standards for UVA protection”; American products are considered “weak” in comparison.

Here's a list of the "11 worst spray sunscreens":

  • Banana Boat Clear UltraMist Ultra Defense MAX Skin Protect Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 110
  • Coppertone Sport High Performance AccuSpray Sunscreen, SPF 70
  • Coppertone Sport High Performance Clear Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 100+
  • CVS Clear Spray Sunscreen, SPF 100
  • CVS Sheer Mist Spray Sunscreen, SPF 70
  • CVS Sport Clear Spray Sunscreen, SPF 100+
  • CVS Wet & Dry Sunscreen Spray, SPF 85
  • Neutrogena Fresh Cooling Sunscreen Body Mist, SPF 70
  • Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen Spray, SPF 100+
  • Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen Spray, SPF 70
  • Neutrogena Wet Skin Sunscreen Spray, SPF 85+

And here are the "12 worst sunscreen lotions":

  • Banana Boat Sport Performance Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 100
  • Coppertone Sport High Performance Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 100
  • Coppertone Sport High Performance Sunscreen, SPF 75
  • Coppertone Sport Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55
  • Coppertone Ultra Guard Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70+
  • CVS Sport Sunstick Sunscreen, SPF 55
  • CVS Sun Lotion Sunscreen, SPF 100
  • CVS Sun Lotion Sunscreen, SPF 70
  • Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Daily Liquid Sunscreen, SPF 70
  • NO-AD Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 60
  • NO-AD Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 85
  • Ocean Potion Protect & Nourish Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70

Don't worry; the EWG also calculated the best sunscreens to sport this summer, including options from COOLA, The Honest Company, and Tropical Sands.

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