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.