Sunscreens may not offer promised protection

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - By Sara Story - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - If you plan to spend time outdoors during Memorial Day weekend, there are a few things you need to know before applying sunscreen. Alarming new research found that some sun-safety products offer a false sense of protection, and the chemicals in them could be hazardous.

More than a thousand SPF products were put to the test. The Environmental Working Group found that less than 10% of current sunscreen products offer sufficient protection.

Dr. Jenni Holman, a dermatologist in Tyler, says it is because SPF numbers can be misleading. "I think some of those concerns are the same concerns I warn my patients about," she said.  "Especially the one that talks about the false sense of security. People think, 'If I put on an SPF 50, than I'm good for the rest of the day.'"

Laura Maness knows first-hand the dangers of the sun. "I had been laying out in the sun with tanning oil and no sunscreen at all and had been in the tanning bed a lot," said Maness. Years of sun exposure took its toll. At age 18, she was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. Now sunscreen is a part of life for Maness who says that she uses 75-80 SPF.

Doctors say the most important thing to look for when buying sunscreen is a product that offers broad spectrum protection. This means the sunscreen will block both UVA and UVB rays. "UVB is kind of the burning rays and UVA are what we call the aging rays," explained Dr. Holman. "Both of those can cause problems as far as skin cancer, wrinkles, and aging down the road." She says the SPF number only accounts for UVB protection.

Dr. Holman says ingredients on the back may be more important than the numbers on the front. "Titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, avobenzone, Mexoryl, those are all good ingredients," said Dr. Holman.

The EWG warns some ingredients may be hazardous, especially in spray products. "The concern was if we are not 100% sure about these chemicals, if you aerosolize them in a spray and inhale them, what is the long-term risk?" said Dr. Holman. "Do we know any data on that? No."

The most important thing to remember is apply enough, re-apply often, and take cover when possible.

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