Burn! 40 Percent of Top-Selling Sunscreens Don't Meet Dermatologists' Guidelines

A new study offers alarming insight into how well popular sunscreens really work.

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Here's an alarming fact: 4 in 10 sunscreens fail to meet basic sun safety guidelines established by the American Academy of Dermatology, according to a new study.

Health Day reports that researchers looked at 65 sunscreens that accounted for the top 1 percent of all those sold by mega-online retailer Amazon.com, and they found almost half don't offer the minimal water and sweat resistance needed to be effective. Also annoying: More expensive sunscreens were not found to offer better sun protection.

Most of the products that were reviewed by researchers were creams, many of which offered broad-spectrum protection. More than half boasted water- or sweat-resistance on the label.

But as study author Steve Xu, M.D., a resident in dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, explains, "The definition of a 'sunscreen' has broadened a lot." In other words, a product can be called a sunscreen if it's a moisturizer with added sun protection. "This is probably why so many of the products that didn't meet AAD guidelines ... because of a lack of water or sweat resistance," he said.

So what are consumers to do? Here's the takeaway: If you're hanging at the pool or the beach, make sure the sunscreen you are buying for your family is water and sweat resistant. Look for a sunscreen that maintains its effectiveness after 40 minutes of being in the water. Incidentally, you won't find a product labeled "waterproof" due to FDA regulations that ban that wording.

The AAD also recommends looking for a product that offers "broad-spectrum protection" against UVA "aging" rays as well as UVB "burning" rays, and a "sun protection factor" (SPF) of 30 or more, which will block out almost all the sun's harmful rays. And although some products may not offer the sun protection they claim to, it's definitely worth wearing an imperfect sunscreen than skipping it all together, according to experts.

Also, reapply sunscreen regularly, outfit your family with hats, and sit in the shade when possible.

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.

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