Sunnier days are approaching—which means it’s time to stock up on sunscreen. The use of sunblock is one of the best defenses against skin damage and cancer for those who spend time outdoors.
The Environmental Working Group released its annual "Guide to Sunscreens" Tuesday, including reviews of more than 1,000 sun protecting sunscreens, moisturizers and lip balms. The EWG found that roughly 67 percent of the products either don’t work well or are made using ingredients that can be potentially harmful to the user.
The EWG put all the products it reviewed into a database that is easily searchable for consumers. Users can search by brand, price, sun protection factor (SPF level) and can even search for a list of products without the ingredient oxybenzone.
There are a few things users should consider when choosing the right sunscreen for them. First, users should consider the SPF level. The SPF is related to the amount of sun a person is exposed to, not the amount of time the person is in the sun. The amount of sun can vary throughout the day depending on intensity, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
Additionally, the SPF value only measures the protection the product offers against the ultraviolet B radiation the sun gives off. Products called “broad spectrum” offer protection against the different radiation the sun gives off.
The EWG says SPF ratings above 50 aren’t really necessary and actually improperly make users think they need to reapply their lotion less frequently, which can then be harmful.
“SPF values of 75, 80, or 100 lull Americans into thinking their skin is fully protected from the sun’s harmful rays for extended periods of time,” David Andrews, a senior scientist with EWG, said in a release.
Many of those high SPF products also contain oxybenzone that absorbs the UVA radiation, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Oxybenzone, however, is an allergen that can enter the bloodstream through the skin and can disrupt hormones in the body, according to the EWG.
For consumers looking to avoid using products that contain oxybenzone, there are mineral sunscreen alternatives, which the EWG also examined.
Oxybenzone-free sunscreens may become a requirement in some locations soon: Studies have shown the ingredient can damage coral reefs. Lawmakers in Hawaii made moves to ban the sale of sunscreen products that use the oxybenzone along with octinoxate, NPR reported.
Sunscreen users can check the EWG database to see whether or not their favorite sunscreens provide adequate protection and whether they contain oxybenzone.
More from Newsweek