Thousands of sunscreens don’t offer protection in outdoor pursuits, report shows

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hose who spend time fishing are at more of a risk than others for a variety of reasons, including simply spending more time in conditions conducive to UV danger

Everyone along the Texas coast knows someone who has been affected by skin cancer.

However, those among us who enjoy spending time on our many bay systems and in the Gulf of Mexico seeking redfish, speckled trout, flounder and numerous other species are more familiar with the risks of spending time in the sun — including having friends and family who have gone under the knife to remove potentially fatal melanoma and other dangerous “sun spots.”

Fishing guides in particular are more susceptible to ultraviolet dangers simply because they spend so much time outdoors, and it’s more common than not for veteran guides to have undergone multiple procedures to remove areas that have turned various colors, especially on the face, hands, neck, arms and other places that are more prone to sun exposure.

With summer on the horizon and Texans of all ages heading outdoors for rest and relaxation, it’s prime time to talk about the dangers of spending time in the sun, what you can do to combat UV exposure and why most sunscreens simply aren’t going to offer adequate protection. More than 3.5 million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed annually in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, making it the most common form of cancer in our country.

Those who spend time fishing are at more of a risk than others for a variety of reasons, including simply spending more time in conditions conducive to UV danger. Water and sand reflect those damaging rays, which in turn increases the risk of sunburn and skin damage. Studies have shown that bad sunburns enhance the recurring danger of skin cancer and other health issues and most folks who do fish regularly likely have had multiple burns — including severe ones — dating back to their childhood.

While sunscreen has its advantages when used properly, you can’t beat simply covering up, and even in the heat of the summer you can still remain comfortable. A variety of companies manufacture “fishing shirts” and lightweight apparel suited to being active in the sun while maintaining a cool body temperature. In addition, the face mask has become a staple on the flats from Texas to Florida, offering full protection for an area that traditionally gets scorched after a day on the water. You also should cover your head and eyes, finding a good pair of sunglasses that block out a potentially harmful spectrum of harmful glare.

The nonprofit Environmental Working Group recently released its findings from a wide study of more than 15,000 SPF products and the results are startling: 4 out of 5 didn’t offer adequate protection from the sun or didn’t work as advertised. The Group even went as far as to release the worst sunscreens in a variety of categories, evaluating them based on criteria ranging from spray sunblock, which can be inhaled and doesn’t cover skin completely, to the overall SPF, noting that it tops out at 30 to 50 and those offering higher factors simply don’t work as they claim. In addition, the Group noted the presence of oxybenzone, a chemical that can disrupt hormones in the body, and retinyl palmitate, which could actually trigger damage in the body and even may be carcinogenic.

11 Worst Spray Sunscreens

Evaluation: These sunscreens are aerosol sprays with SPFs above 50+ and the harmful additives oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate.

  • 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+

12 Worst Sunscreen Lotions

Evaluation: These sunscreen lotions claim SPFs above 50+ and contain oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate.

  • 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

11 Worst Sunscreens for Kids

Evaluation: These kid and baby sunscreens have at least three strikes against them: oxybenzone, retinyl palmitate and SPFs above 50. Two have a fourth strike: they’re aerosols that can harm sensitive lungs.

  • Banana Boat Clear UltraMist Kids Max Protect & Play Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 110
  • Coppertone Kids Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70
  • Coppertone Kids Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55
  • Coppertone Kids Wacky Foam Foaming Lotion Sunscreen, SPF 70+
  • Coppertone Water Babies Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70+
  • Coppertone Water Babies Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55
  • Equate Kids Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55
  • Kroger Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70
  • Kroger Kids Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70
  • Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Beach & Pool Sunblock Spray, SPF 70+
  • Up & Up Kid’s Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55

Sunscreen Dangers

Aerosols

1 in 4 sunscreens in this year’s database is a spray. People like sprays because they’re easy to squirt on squirming kids and hard-to-reach areas. But they may pose serious inhalation risks, and they make it too easy to apply too little or miss a spot. The FDA has expressed doubts about their safety and effectiveness but hasn’t banned them. As long as they’re legal, sunscreen manufacturers will make them.

High SPFs

One-eighth of the sunscreens evaluated  boast SPFs above 50. SPF stands for “sun protection factor,” but that outdated term refers only to protection against UVB rays that burn the skin. It has little to do with a product’s ability to protect skin from UVA rays, which penetrate deep into the body, accelerate skin aging, may suppress the immune system and may cause skin cancer. The worst thing about high-SPF products is that they give people a false sense of security and tempt them to stay in the sun too long. They suppress sunburns but raise the risk of other kinds of skin damage. The FDA is considering barring SPF above 50.

Oxybenzone

Half of the beach and sport sunscreens contain oxybenzone, an active ingredient in sunscreens. But it penetrates the skin, gets into the bloodstream and acts like estrogen. It can trigger allergic skin reactions. Some research studies, while not conclusive, have linked higher concentrations of oxybenzone to disorders, including endometriosis in older women and, lower birth weights in newborn girls.

Retinyl palmitate

Nearly 20 percent of the sunscreens and SPF-rated moisturizers and 13 percent of SPF-rate lip products contain retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A. Night creams with this chemical may help skin look more youthful. But on sun-exposed skin, retinyl palmitate may speed development of skin tumors and lesions, according to government studies. We know enough to believe you’re better off without sunscreens with retinyl palmitate.

Source: Environmental Working Group

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