Just this week a new report came out sounding the alarm about sunscreen — calling some of the most popular brands “the equivalent of modern-day snake oil” and going so far as to claim certain brands that include a specific vitamin A derivative actually promote skin cancer cell growth.
That sounds pretty bad to me — and at first glance the study looks credible. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested 500 different brands and strengths of sunscreen and recommended only 8% of them, suggesting the rest were ineffective at best. So now what? Do I just clear my bathroom cabinets of sunscreen and cancel my beach vacation?
An article on WebMD addresses the EWG report head-on, quoting Florida-based dermatologist James Spencer, MD as saying
“EWG is kind of the Chicken Little of the sunscreen arena. There is no evidence that the active ingredients in sunscreens are dangerous. These are products used by millions of people every day. There is real danger all around us, and one very real danger is skin cancer and skin aging from sun exposure.”
According to the experts at WebMD, the EWG report is very broad in its rejection of all sunscreens that include the chemical oxybenzone or the vitamin A derivative I mentioned earlier. WebMD reports there are some studies that suggest these ingredients may disrupt a person’s hormone balance, but further study is necessary before drawing EWG’s conclusions.
If the experts at WebMD aren’t convincing enough, NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman has been speaking out against the EWG study, too. She cautions sun-worshippers to be sure to reapply sunscreen often — putting it on first thing in the morning will not protect you all day — and be wary of sunscreens claiming SPFs over 30 or 50. Dr. Snyderman says numbers like SPF 100 don’t always offer better protection and they tend to be a lot more expensive.
So — as you pack up the family car to head for the Eastern Shore or maybe even Deep Creek this Memorial Day weekend, what’s a family to do? The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention (sponsors of “Don’t Fry Day” – May 28, 2010) says it’s as simple as Slip, Slop, Slap and Wrap!
- Slip on a shirt.
- Slap on sunscreen (they recommend SPF 15 or higher).
- Slap on a hat.
- Wrap on sunglasses.
Above all else, enjoy your long holiday weekend and make it a safe one. I’d love to see your vacation pictures — feel free to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll post some of my favorites right here on the blog!