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80% of Sunscreens Are Ineffective, According to Questionable New Guide

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Photo by <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/oliverallen/">Amir Illusion</a>/Flickr/<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">Creative Commons</a>
Photo by Amir Illusion/Flickr/Creative Commons

Before you head out the door this summer, have you thought about how effective that SPF 60 sun protection really is? According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), your sunscreen could very well be worthless, harmful, or both, as only 21% of the of 1,700 sunscreen products analyzed by the group were found to be safe and effective.

Before you panic, know that the Environmental Working Group loves to publish fear-based studies. Still, it's worth knowing what ingredients are in your beauty products.

In their 2015 Guide to Sunscreens, EWG compiled an extensive database of sunscreens (including SPF-rated moisturizers and lip balms) to cut through confusing and misleading labels on consumer packaging.

According to Sonya Lunder, EWG senior analyst:

Many studies have shown that people are misled by label claims about sun protection and that, as a result, those who use higher SPF sunscreens are more likely to stay out in the sun longer and more likely to burn.

The guide singles out more than 30 products — the worst of what's available on the market — in their 2015 Sunscreen Hall of Shame because of potentially toxic ingredients (such as oxybenzone, a hormone disruptor), sprayable versions (due to inhalation risks and failure to adequately cover the skin), and excessive SPF claims (SPF protection tops out at 30 to 50, but Neutrogena, in particular, goes so far as marketing SPF 110 on its label).

Not all is lost, however. Even though many of the sunscreens scrutinized didn't pass EWG's safety standards, 21% out of 1,000 did score high marks. Approximately 19% of moisturizers and 21% of lip balms also scored well.

According to EWG, about half of the products in this year's guide could not be sold in Europe due to the European Commission's stricter rules on SPF values and UVA protection.

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