According to a new study published in JAMA Dermatology this week, 40% of the top-selling sunscreens currently on the market fail to meet the safety criteria outlined by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), essentially making them far less effective in helping to prevent skin cancer. The finding is troubling, especially since consumers have come to trust the brands mentioned, and with skin cancer rates on the rise it could leave many trying to figure out which they should use.
Something that was basically a no-brainer—purchase a top brand-name sunscreen with a high SPF and apply repeatedly to prevent sun damaged skin—may no longer be so simple with these new findings.
Sixty-five products were studied in this research project and were subjected to the Kruskal-Wallis test, which the AAD uses to determine a sunscreen’s effectiveness. The AAD guidelines clearly outline that three factors must be met for a sunscreen to be considered effective:
1.It has to have an SPF factor of 30 or greater;
2.It must be broad-spectrum (that is, it prevents against both UVA and UVB rays); and
3.It must be water-resistant.
Where most of the 65 sunscreen products failed was in water resistance (which also includes sweat resistance). Products tested for the study were chosen based on consumer reviews found on Amazon that had a ranking of four stars or higher; they were in the top one percent of products in that particular category.
Best Sunscreen Buying Guideline: What to Look for Before Buying?
Since sunscreens may not be providing the protection we once thought they did in helping to prevent skin cancer, what should consumers be looking for when buying sunscreen for skin care? With the American Cancer Society predicting about 76,380 new melanoma cases this year alone, having some buying guidelines in mind would be helpful. In 2012, the Food and Drug Administration did a sweep of the industry and updated its standards for products, including banning the words “sunblock” and “waterproof,” and replacing the latter with “water resistant.”
It’s best to use a sunscreen that has both UVA and UVB protection and sun protection factor of 30 or more, but no more than 50 as this can lead to a false sense of protection, especially since so many sunscreens fail to provide the protection they claim to. For this reason, pick an SPF of 40 or 50 to at least ensure you will in fact get a 30 rating.
To help prevent skin cancer, it’s important to apply sunscreen every time you venture outside. Make sure to use enough, often enough, and early enough (about 30 minutes before you go outside). If you have skin irritation from sunscreen, look for a hypoallergenic brand that is formulated with skin allergies in mind.
Sources for Today’s Article:
Xu S, et al., “Sunscreen Product Performance and Other Determinants of Consumer Preferences,” JAMA Dermatology, 2016; doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2016.2344.