The best and the worst: what to look out for when buying sunscreen

Jul 15 2021, 9:17 pm

Sunscreen is a surprisingly divisive topic. Some people say it’s worse for you, some people say it’s better for you.

Thankfully, scientists have done the research and have outlined which ones are actually bad for you, and which ones offer your skin protection from the sun that seems to keep getting more fierce.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), puts out a yearly update of in-depth analysis into the best sunscreen products that are available.

On the heels of a Johnson & Johnson recall of several Neutrogena products, here’s what to look out for when sunscreen shopping.

While they no longer have a hall of shame of the worst products, the EWG is the best resource for you to look at before making choosing a product.

SPF not the most important factor

When sunscreen shopping, you may be tempted to reach for the bottle touting the highest SPF. But, EWG warns that this is not the best choice.

“A sunscreen’s SPF rating has little to do with its capacity to shield the skin from UVA rays. As SPF increases, the ratio of UVA protection decreases. High-SPF products suppress sunburn much more effectively than they protect from UVA-induced damage, like suppression of the immune system, formation of harmful free radicals in skin, and development of melanoma.”

EWG also notes that high SPF products tend to lull consumers into a false sense of security, causing them to stay out in the sun a lot longer than what is deemed a safe amount of exposure.

“High-SPF products require higher concentrations of sun-filtering chemicals than low-SPF sunscreens do. Some of these ingredients may pose health risks when they penetrate the skin and have been linked to tissue damage and potential hormone disruption. ”

Ingredients to watch out for

Unfortunately, the Johnson & Johnson recall was forced because of traces of benzene found in the affected products, which is a cancer causing chemical. This isn’t a primary ingredient of any sunscreen product so it’s not something you can actively look out for.

However, there are a large number of chemicals and ingredients that you can and should look out for when purchasing sunscreen.

These ingredients include oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and avobenzone, with oxybenzone being the most problematic according to the EWG.

“This constant exposure to sunscreen chemicals raises concerns, especially because there is not enough safety data for most ingredients. We have even more concerns about ingredients such as oxybenzone, which have been linked to hormone disruption by numerous studies.”



The best and the worst

EWG has a ranking system that goes between 1-10, with 1 being the best. While they no longer officially have a top and bottom 10, these products are a sampling of the best and the worst, according to their rating scale.

Some of these products are available at Canadian storefronts, and others can be purchase online.

These are some of the best sunscreens according to EWG:

  • Erbaviva Organic Skincare Lotion, SPF 30
  • Waxhead Sun Defence Skin Nourishing Sunscreen, SPF 31
  • Kabana Organic Skincare Green Screen Lotion, Neutral, SPF 31
  • Badger Kids Active Sunscreen Cream, Tangerine and Vanilla, SPF 30
  • Loving Naturals Clear Body Lotion, SPF 30+
  • SunBioLogic Kids Sunscreen Stick, SPF 30+
  • Kabana Organic Skincare Green Screen D Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 35
  • UV Natural Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30+
  • Love Sun Body Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, Fragrance-Free, SPF 50
  • Two Peas Organic Mineral Sunscreen Stick, SPF 30

(Click here for the full list of the best sunscreens.)

And some of the worst:

  • COOLA Classic Body  Spray, Peach Blossom, SPF 70
  • Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Mineral  Lotion, SPF 60+
  • Equate Beauty Ultra Light Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 100
  • Neutrogena Beach Defence Water+ Sun Protection Lotion, SPF 70
  • CVS Health Ultra Protection Sun Lotion, SPF 100
  • Banana Boat Kids MAX Clear Spray, SPF 100
  • Banana Boat Ultra Defence Clear Sunscreen Spray, SPF 100
  • Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 100+
  • Banana Boat Ultra Sport Lotion, SPF 100
  • Panama Jack Sunscreen Continuous Spray, SPF 100

(Click here for the full list of the worst sunscreens.)

Amir AliAmir Ali

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