The People's Perspective on Medicine

Consumer Groups Critical of Sunscreen Choices

Buying sunscreen has become more complicated. Two nonprofit health organizations have rated a variety of sunscreens. Consumer Reports and the Environmental Working Group both find that many sunscreens fall short, either because they don’t provide good protection from ultraviolet light or because they contain ingredients that may not be safe. Both groups criticize the FDA for failing to produce usable rules for UVA protection and recommend relying primarily on protective clothing and limiting exposure in the middle of the day.

The Environmental Working Group and Consumer Reports caution that the ingredient oxybenzone is an endocrine disruptor that might interfere with hormonal balance. This is especially worrisome for young children and pregnant women. The groups also warn that the ingredient retinyl palmitate may also be inappropriate because it may promote skin cancer. Ingredients that do a good job against both UVA and UVB rays include mineral blockers such as zinc or titanium oxide. Consumer Reports lists Up & Up Sport, No-Ad With Aloe and Equate Baby as Best Buys. Environmental Working Group endorses products such as All Terrain, Badger, Blue Lizard and California Baby. The complete lists are online.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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