What Are The Worst Sunscreens?

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Family Wearing Bad Sunscreen at the Beach

As previously mentioned in our blog highlighting the disadvantages of sunscreen, not all sunscreens are created equal. In fact, some are so bad we aren’t comfortable recommending them as complements to our sun block clothing. However, because sunscreen products and ingredient compositions constantly change, listing qualities of the worst sunscreens is more helpful than a list of specific sunscreens to be avoided. Effectively, these are the types of sunscreens that are the worst, featuring more of the attributes and ingredients that make bad sunscreens bad.

Sun Block with Unnecessarily High SPF Ratings

Many sunscreens attempt an appearance of additional effectiveness by means of the highest SPF rating possible. While this alone does not make sunscreen unsafe or bad, it is misleading. This is because an SPF 50 and SPF 100 lotion both need to be reapplied every 1-2 hours, yet higher SPF ratings sometimes fool people into thinking they can stay in the sun longer. Meanwhile, during that 1-2 hour time period, you are only receiving marginally better protection, as SPF 50 already blocks 98% of UVB rays. As a result, we agree with the American Academy of Dermatology’s recommendation of at least SPF 30, but anything from SPF 30 through SPF 50 is ideal.

Sunscreens that Damage Coral Reefs

Another common feature in the worst sunscreens is a long list of coral-bleaching ingredients. Only additional research can reveal the full extent of damage sunscreens cause to coral reefs. However, as of now, both oxybenzone and octinoxate are linked to coral bleaching. Unfortunately, at least one of these ingredients is found in many sunscreen products. Of course, if you definitely aren’t going into the water, then this is less concerning. 

Coral Reef with Sea Turtle damaged by Sun Block

Expensive Sunscreens

Our next gripe with the worst sunscreens has to do with their price. Sunscreen is not cheap, and a quality sunscreen usually costs anywhere from $2-4 per ounce. Prices can escalate quickly into the $5+ dollars per ounce, especially for face lotions. Given that you should be applying at least 1 ounce per application, you’ll run through bottles quickly. With Rayward Apparel’s sun block clothing, on the other hand, your protection isn’t on a timer and won’t run out. In fact, if you consistently wear UPF apparel, you’ll quickly start saving money by needing to buy less sunscreen.

Non-water Resistant Sunscreens

Another set of sunscreens that you may consider avoiding are those that aren’t water resistant. The FDA allows sunscreens to claim either 40-minute or 80-minute water resistance. All things equal, we prefer the 80-minute water resistance. You should know that currently, not sunscreen is “waterproof.” Seriously reconsider any sunscreen making such claims. If you want waterproof protection, wear UPF clothing that maintains its UV protective qualities even when wet, such as Rayward Apparel’s bamboo-based Sun Bound collection.

Palm Tree Blocking Sun

Non-Broad Spectrum Sunscreens

While some of the previous sunscreen issues could be a matter of personal preference, this one is not up for debate. Therefore, we’ll keep it short: you NEED broad-spectrum sunscreen. Broad-spectrum sun block protects against both UVA and UVB rays, and anything else isn’t keeping you safe. Unless clearly labeled as “broad spectrum,” do not use it. Fortunately most popular sunscreens are now broad spectrum, and all UPF sun block clothing offers broad-spectrum protection.

For more information on decoding sunscreen labels, check out this handy guide from the American Academy of Dermatology:

If the above painted a dire picture of sunscreen, then take comfort in the fact that there are also many great sunscreens. Choosing the right one just requires considering how you intend to use your sunscreen, as well as carefully examining the product label. Also, some of our criteria for the best sunscreens are more about personal preference than they are about sun safety. So as long as your sunscreen’s qualities don’t prevent you from using the product properly and protectively, it’s ok! Perhaps you get more comfort using an SPF 75 instead of SPF 50, for instance. Or if you know you won’t be in the water, it’s probably ok if your favorite sunscreen isn’t reef-friendly or as water-resistant. 

Ultimately, you should be using sun block clothing to protect as much of your body as possible, and only relying on sunscreen (or a safe alternative) for the areas not covered by UPF apparel. To shop Rayward Apparel’s sun block clothing, also known as UPF apparel, click here!

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