Sunscreen worth the money? Or consumers getting burned?

This week the Environmental Working Group (EWG) reported that 80% of sunscreens aren't all they're cracked up to be, falling short on either their ability to protect skin from the sun or the safety of the ingredients. Sunscreen makers say this simply isn't true.

Here's what EWG reports: They say that products should be labeled better. In particular, they want products labeled regarding UVA rays, which don't cause sunburns but do still damage the skin. They say this is important because UVA can cause skin cancer. Current labeling with SPF factors only measures the protection from UVB rays, which cause sunburns. The result? You might still be getting skin damage from UVA rays, even though you think you're protected because of the SPF rating.

EWG says that only 15% of the products they tested had "broad spectrum" protection, meaning they protect against UVA and UVB. And they say that the best selling brands of sunscreen were the worst performers in their tests.Consumers can check out the results of testing and find which brands are best with this database of results.
Sunscreen manufacturers like Coppertone and Neutrogena said their products are safe and they work, and that EWG is making false claims about the effectiveness of products in regard to UVA. They say reports like EWG's run the risk of turning off consumers to sunscreen all together.

I say take as many precautions as you can. Check out the EWG database of results. What's the harm in using the products that they rate the highest? Sure, other products might work well too, but when it comes to the sun, I'd rather be as careful as possible.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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