The Truth About Sunscreens: An Expert Analysis
1.What’s the issue with SPF?
NZ Consumer magazine tested sunscreens and found more than half of New Zealand sunscreens did not live up to their claims, according to a news report.
2.Does SPF matter?
Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is a measurement that is used in the ratings of sunscreens. To make it simple, SPF 15 lets in one in 15 harmful UV rays (93% protection), while SPF 30 lets in one in 30 (97% protection), and SPF 50 lets in one in 50 UV rays (98% protection) i.e. differences between SPF 30 and 50 are minimal. In the US, the FDA has capped SPF values at 50+, calling ultra-high SPF values “inherently misleading”. In general, as long as a sunscreen has an SPF of 30 and is broad-spectrum (protects against UVA and UVB), it is good to go.
3.Do regulations make a difference?
What is interesting is that regulation does not seem to make a difference. Even in
Australia where testing and TGA-listings of sunscreens are mandatory, many sunscreens fail tests. Choice, an Australian consumer watchdog tested 6 SPF 50+ sunscreens in late 2015 and found many do not live up to their SPF claims. These were from different brands and marketed to the general public, targeted at kids and sportspeople, and were tested according to the Australian Standard. Similar testing of sunscreens in the USA and UK also showed the same results. Because testing is done on human subjects’ skin, SPF results are always likely to be variable.
4.How safe are the chemicals in standard sunscreens?
Recently, a major study in the prestigious JAMA Dermatology Journal reported that avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, and ecamsule (the most common active ingredients) were found in the blood of people after sunscreen application. All four chemicals reached blood levels higher than that 0.5 ng/mL threshold, a standard used to demand toxicity studies. The average peak oxybenzone level was around 200 ng/mL—that's 400 times higher than the level to trigger a formal toxicology review. While we don't know how harmful this can be, one thing to be mindful is that if we used the oxybenzone level as an example, it is about seven times higher than the nicotine level in blood after smoking a cigarette.
5.How can you stay safe at the beach this summer?
Choose a mineral sunscreen. These typically contain zinc or titanium (or both). A study of chemical sunscreens (never mind the SPF) showed that average drug level increases each day over 4 days that a chemical sunscreen is applied. This means that there is drug accumulation (when applying sunscreen several times a day) and think of a week on holiday at the beach! Further, the drug washout (getting out of the system) was rather slow for a chemical sunscreen —meaning that over a Kiwi summer, the risks could really add up.
So I’d stick to non-nanoparticle mineral sunscreens that are safe for you, marine life and the environment.
INSPIRATION: Created for New Zealand -- with its uniquely amazing environment, pure air, high winds and the harsh southern hemisphere sun; suitable for sensitive and Asian skin
INNOVATION: Anti-aging “sun-care” developed for the active Kiwi lifestyle; science-driven skincare with unique plant extracts and peptides; sunscreens without harmful chemicals
INTEGRITY: Formulated by an MD - Dr Sharad Paul, New Zealand’s own international skin cancer expert; manufactured at an FDA-licensed facility to the highest standards
I am using the Dr Sharad Mineral Sunscreen (SPF 30 Broad Spectrum) ... It has been amazing this summer to have enjoyed all my usual outdoor activities and never once showed any signs that I have been exposed to the sun! I cannot recommend this mineral sunscreen highly enough and sincerely believe that anyone that cares about theirs or their loved ones’ skin health should invest in this miraculous defence against the sun's harmful rays.
~ Mr Gregory MacCarthy Morrogh (schoolteacher and aging surfer)
FDA standards SPF and Water Resistance Test Report
Eurofins Dermatest Water Resistance Test Report ANZ-TGA standards
Eurofins Dermatest SPF Test Full Report ANZ-TGA standards
FDA and ANZ Standards Broad Spectrum Test Report
False sunscreen information dangerous for consumers - expert
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