Memorial Day is the unofficial kick off to summer, when our calendars fill up with beach days and we begin the obligatory slopping on of sunscreen.
Whether you’re putting it on yourself or someone else, the importance of sunscreen has been drilled into most of us from an early age. But choosing a bottle to throw in your beach bag can be pretty overwhelming. We have more products to choose from, each with different claims such as “broad spectrum” or “UVB protection.” For 10 years, the Environmental Working Group has published a list of the best and worst products for shielding against the sun’s harsh rays. Here are some key takeaways, followed by the 2016 list.
Many products offer poor protection. This year, the group looked at more than 750 products and concluded that nearly 75 percent of them offered poor protection or had ingredients the group found “worrisome.” For example, oxybenzone is a sunscreen additive that the working group says is a hormone disrupter and allergen.
Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst for the Environmental Working Group, says it’s a good thing that the number of mineral-only products has doubled since 2007, rising from 17 percent of products to 34 percent in 2016. These sunscreens, which offer protection against both UVA and UVB, generally don’t contain harmful additives.
We are still waiting for those SPF 50+ rules. While we no longer see claims like “sweat proof” and “waterproof” on sunscreen (the FDA said they were too far-reaching), the agency’s proposed regulation that would cap SPF numbers at 50+ hasn’t kicked in yet. In 2011, the FDA stated that anything higher than that number is “inherently misleading.” In this year’s report, the Environmental Working Group found that 61 sunscreen products had an SPF higher than 50, as opposed to just 10 products in 2007. (We’ve reported about sunscreen companies’ misleading claims in the past, and my colleague Kiera Butler wrote about some ingredients that may actually speed up the development of skin cancer.)
Spray-on sunscreen may offer less protection. Because spray-on sunscreens evaporate quickly, Lunder said, it’s hard to tell if you’ve covered your whole body.
“We think, ‘I can get it on my kids faster,'” she said. “But that really doesn’t hold up in the real world, there’s evidence that they aren’t using as much and aren’t getting that thickness on their skin.”
The important thing to remember, the group says, is that sunscreen alone won’t do the job, and that we tend to give it more importance than we should. Hats, sunglasses, time in the shade and other essentials are also key for protecting against sun damage.
Here’s is the group’s list of the best and worst sunscreens of 2016:
(In no particular order)
The Best Beach and Sport sunscreens
The organization rated sunscreens from 1 to 10 (products with 1’s were excellent and ones with 10’s were the worst). Just over 60 brands received a score of 1 or 2. These were designated “low hazard” for their ingredient list and because they had a good balance of SPF and UVA protection. Find the full list here.
- All Good Sunscreen and Sunstick, SPF 30 and 50
- All Terrain Aqua and TerraSport Sunscreens, SPF 30
- Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen, SPF 30
- Badger Sunscreen Cream and Lotion, SPF 25, 30, and 35
- Bare Belly Organics, SPF 34
- Beauty Without Cruelty, SPF 30
- Kiss My Face Organics Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 30
- Nature’s Gate Face Sunscreen, SPF 25
- Tropical Sands Sunscreen and Facestick, SPF 30
- Releve Organic Skincare, SPF 20
- Star Naturals Sunscreen Stick, SPF 25
The Best for Kids
- Adorable Baby Sunscreen lotion, SPF 30
- All Good Kid’s Sunscreen, SPF 33
- All Terrain KidSport Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
- ATTITUDE Little Ones 100% Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 30
- BabyHampton Beach Bum Sunscreen, SPF 30
- COOLA Suncare Baby Mineral Sunscreen, unscented moisturizer, SPF 50.
- Belly Button & Babies Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30.
- Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen, SPF 35.
- BurnOut Kids Physical Sunscreen, SPF 35
- California Baby Super Sensitive Sunscreen, SPF 30
- Goddess Garden Kids Sport Natural Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
- Jersey Kids Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
- Kiss My Face Organics Kids Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 30
- Nurture My Body Baby Organic Sunscreen, SPF 32
- Substance Baby Natural Sun Care Creme, SPF 30
- Sunology Natural Sunscreen, Kids, SPF 50
- Sunumbra Sunkids Natural Sunscreen, SPF 40
- Thinksport for Kids Sunscreen, SPF 50
- TruKid Sunny Days Sport Sunscreen, SPF 30
The Worst for Kids
On the 1 to 10 scale, the below products scored a 7 or higher (with 10 being the worst) because they made high SPF claims or had higher amounts of the additives oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate.
- Banana Boat Kids Max Protect & Play Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 100**
- Coppertone Water Babies Sunscreen Stick, Wacky Foam, and Sunscreen lotion, SPF 55
- CVS Baby Sunstick Sunscreen and Spray, SPF 55
- Equate Kids Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55
- Hampton Sun Continuous Mist Sunscreen For Kids, SPF 70
- Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Sunscreen Spray and Stick products, SPF 70
- Up & Up Kids Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55
**This was the only product that got a 10.