Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Smokescreen on Sunscreens

Did you know that in the United States, that sunscreens aren't subject to any real regulation by the Food and Drug Administration, and that the FDA has been waffling on safety guidelines since 1978? Some of the more effective ingredients that have been in use in Europe and even fairly recently in Canada like Tinosorb S® and Tinosorb M® are still not approved by the FDA.

Just like the photo here, a higher SPF does not necessarily translate into increased protection. Many screens with a high SPF only protect you from UVB, not UVA.

Theres some fascinating information at:

that goes on to rate many sunscreens on their effectiveness, and also has a list of the members of their "Hall of Shame".

Some of these Hall of Shamers are products geared towards use on babies. Some of these have a high SPF that give the impression of high protection, but only against UVB rays, not UVA rays, which are the ones that go deeper into the skin and cause cellular damage.

I think it's a shame that many of the most highly ranked sunscreens don't appear to be available in Canada. At least, I've never seen them on shelves here in Canada. It's also rather shocking that one of the sunscreens my dermatologist recommended for daily use is ranked as a moderate risk due to it containing oxybenzone.

Oxybenzone risks:
Developmental/reproductive toxicity, Endocrine disruption, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Persistence and bioaccumulation, Enhanced skin absorption, Biochemical or cellular level changes

Even worse is that a can of spray sunscreen in my bathroom, which is promptly going in the garbage, is ranked as a high hazard for: being a spray, having oxybenzone and vitamin A in it. That makes sense.... breathing in chemicals that cause endocrine disruption, biochemical and cellular level changes can't be that good for you. Now think of how many parents you see spraying their kids with this stuff. They even make it smell "nice" so it's not offensive when you breathe it in, and you breathe it in deeply because it smells good.

There's a logo on many sunscreens that give the impression that it is recommended by the Canadian Cancer Society. Did you know that all the use of this logo means is that the manufacturer PAID the Canadian Cancer Society to use their logo? On the back of my apparently toxic sunscreen, it says... in tiny letters that my old eyes can't read very well: "The Canadian Cancer Society supports the use of sunscreen but does not endorse specific products."

So give the impression that you are recommending or endorsing this particular product, but then state in small letters that you don't.

Have a look at the EWG site and try to find your favorite sunscreen there and see what they have to say about it. It's quite enlightening.

"Sunscreen makers and users in Europe have more options than in the United States. In Europe, sunscreen makers can select from among 27 chemicals for their formulations, compared to 17 in the U.S. Companies selling in Europe can add any of seven UVA filters to their products, but have a choice of only three when they market in the U.S. European sunscreens could earn FDA’s proposed four-star top rating for UVA protection, while the best U.S. products would earn only three stars. Sunscreen chemicals approved in Europe but not by the FDA provide up to five times more UVA protection; U.S. companies have been waiting five years for FDA approval to use the same compounds. Last but not least, Europeans will find many sunscreens with strong (mandatory) UVA protection if proposed regulations in Europe are finalized. Under FDA’s current proposal, Americans will not. " - from EWG website

If you're in Canada and looking for a quality sunscreen that offers protection against UVA as well as UVB, it would appear that you should look for sunscreens containing Mexoryl XL, Mexoryl SX (Anthelios™, Ombrelle™, Vichy™ and Biotherm™ (L'OrĂ©al) products and Tinosorb S® and Tinosorb M® Minesol® SPF 60 products (RoC®/Johnson & Johnson)

Yes, it hasn't gone un-noticed that some of these are much more expensive than most products commonly bought at the drugstore. How many parents can afford RoC for their kids?

Or you could just buy your sunscreen in Europe. Or we could lobby Health Canada for stricter guidelines on labeling, packaging and ingredient disclosure.

1 comment:

  1. I had no idea about any of this stuff about sunscreens though. BSP uses one of thse sprays faithfully, and I always slathered my kids with the 45 SPF products when they were young - apparently, probably uselessly. :/