Evaluating Sunscreen Efficacy: Debunking Misleading Reports from Environmental Working Group

Most sunscreens don’t work, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. This is a really irresponsible headline for several reasons, primarily because it’s not true. Also, somebody may come across this article and just decide it’s not worth it to protect their skin from the sun. This headline is from an article based on information from, you guessed it, the EWG, aka the Environmental Working Group, aka my mortal enemy. They released a new sunscreen report.

They went about scoring sunscreens from a variety of different Vantage points. So you see UVA Protection, UVB Protection, the balance of the two, the stability to talk about some screen efficacy. And then they also talked about potential health hazard. They are known for using pseudo science and fear mongering, in my opinion, about health hazards from sunscreens and other personal care products. So off the bat, awful. This also doesn’t really make a lot of sense because they will change how each of these factors is weighted based on specific callouts. So if a sunscreen specifically has oxybenzone or vitamin a, the weight that they’re gonna give to that health hazard is gonna be higher. That makes no sense. Also, you know, if it’s a spray or powder, if it has an SPF above 50+, they’re going to say it’s more hazardous for your health automatically, etc.

My main issue in this whole thing comes in how they’re assessing UVB Protection from sunscreens. Basically, what they were doing was looking at the act of ingredients in a sunscreen formula and then modeling out the absorbent spectra of the different filters. And from that, they would come out with a predictive SPF.

This is, in my opinion, really dumb. I’m no cosmetic chemist, but there are many other ingredients in a sunscreen which lend to its efficacy, not just the UV filters. One that the EWG calls out are these SPF boosters. They’re concerned because they feel that they do not change the absorbance spectra of the sunscreen. However, there are ways that they could actually make the sunscreens more effective without changing the specific wavelengths that are being absorbed. They say that these methods are standard industry practice. No, they’re not. This is not standard industry practice for determining SPF ratings are given two sunscreen formulas based on tests that are done on actual people. And in my opinion, that’s a really good thing. Is it perfect? No. Truthfully, when we’re doing clinical trials, say, on medication, you want to mirror real life conditions as much as possible. The reason for that is you want to know how this thing actually works in the real world, not in a simulation, not theoretically. That’s why when you’re doing SPF testing, it needs to be a final formula. They’re not just looking at the UV filters. We already know about that. The entire formula is important, including the packaging. You need to know what packaging this product is gonna come in before it gets SPF tested because that could have a bearing on how effective it is. A really well known brand recently changed some packaging for one of their SPS, and it took them several years. And my guess is they probably, even if the juice inside is the same, they had to get SPF testing done again because they had a new package. They’re concerned about these SPF boosters, but they could potentially be stabilizing the UV filters, making them more effective. And so like, this makes no sense to me. So if you’re just like plugging the UV filters themselves into a computer, seeing an absorb inspection drum and saying like, no, this isn’t good. Like that’s that’s really I was gonna say that’s not telling the whole story, but that’s like not even telling like an Iota of the story. Some Protection factor is actually a measure of how good that product is at preventing sunburn. So to determine that, you gotta burn people. So in the end, like, I hope you all can appreciate how nonsensical this is. It’s also really irresponsible, especially since the EWG is an organization that makes money by scaring people, by demonizing ingredients and products, people end up trusting them. And the more notoriety they get, the more brands are gonna want their little EWG seal of approval, which to get that on your packaging, you have to pay for.