Test of chemicals in sunscreen

3. jun 2021

Sunscreens and sun sprays are important sun protection. However, some may contain substances that are suspected to be endocrine disrupting or harmful to the environment.

solcreme_gruppebillede_til_web.jpg

solcreme_gruppebillede_til_web.jpg
Photo: Anne Beck Christensen

Sunscreen is important - choose one without unwanted chemicals

Sunscreen is an important supplement to shade and clothing when you need to protect yourself from the sun's rays.

The test of 36 selected sunscreens and sun sprays with SPF 30 shows that there are many good choices on the market without unwanted chemicals.

16 products in the test receive the best chemical rating A. See the sunscreens' chemical assessment at the bottom of this page.

See the sunscreens and sun sprays in the test with product pictures and assessments (link to page in Danish)

Some sunscreens are suspected of being endocrine disruptors

In the test, 15 sunscreens get the worst chemical rating C because they contain UV-filters or other substances suspected of being endocrine disruptors.

Among other things, these are substances that are on the Danish Environmental Protection Agency's list of endocrine disruptors from June 2020.

1 sunscreen gets the worst rating in the test because it contains a UV-filter that is harmful to the environment.

See all tests from The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals

The cocktail effect is problematic - not the individual sunscreen

Substances that are suspected to be endocrine disruptors can be problematic in products due to the so-called cocktail effect.

The cocktail effect means that you can be exposed to problematic chemicals from many sources in your everyday life. The total exposure may pose a health risk.

Sunscreen is in itself safe and important to use as sun protection. However, it is generally a good idea to reduce your overall exposure to suspected endocrine disruptors whenever you can. For example, by choosing a sunscreen without the problematic substances.

Sunscreens with SPF 50, 20 and 15 can be found in the app Kemiluppen

Do you want other sunscreens with SPF 30 than those included in the test? For example, do you go for sunscreens with a factor of 15 for the Danish summer or a factor of 50 for sensitive skin or exposed areas?

You can search for these sunscreens in the app Kemiluppen.

Enter the desired factor in the search field under "Search" and type for example SPF 15. Then you will find many other good choices with the desired factor.

The protection of the sunscreens has not been tested

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals’ test of sunscreens is a so-called declaration test.

The test team has examined the sunscreens' content declaration for ingredients that are suspected of being endocrine disrupting, allergenic or problematic for the environment.

The ability of sunscreens to protect against UVA and UVB rays is continuously laboratory tested by the Danish Consumer Council THINK.

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals’ test methods

Behind the test

How we tested

All sunscreens and sun sprays in the test have a factor of 30 and were purchased in the spring of 2021. After purchase, product names and ingredient lists are sent to the manufacturers to check that the products were not outdated and that the ingredient lists were correct.

The test is a declaration test, which means that it is a review of the ingredients declared on the products. We have not analyzed the products in a chemical laboratory or tested for how well they protect against the radiation from the sun.

The ingredients of the sunscreens have been assessed in relation to whether they are, for example, suspected of being endocrine disrupting, allergenic or problematic for the environment.

In the Kemiluppen app (an app from The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals) you will find reviews of many more sunscreens - including sunscreen with other sun factors, sunblock, facial sunscreen and more. The evaluation of the sunscreens in this test is identical to the evaluation in Kemiluppen.

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals’ test methods

 

What we found

36 sunscreens are included in the test. They are distributed as follows:

  • 16 sunscreens get the best chemical rating A.
  • 4 sunscreens get average chemical rating B. This is due to the content of perfumes or environmentally problematic substances.
  • 16 sunscreens get the lowest chemical rating C. They contain one or more substances that are suspected to be endocrine disruptors or substances that are problematic for the environment.

These unwanted substances were found in the sunscreens

Substances that the Consumer Council Think Chemicals considers to be undesirable in the studied sunscreens:

  • Ethylhexyl salicylate is a sunscreen suspected to be endocrine disrupting. Found in 9 sunscreens.
  • Octocrylene is a sunscreen suspected to be endocrine disrupting. Found in 8 sunscreens.
  • Homosalate is a sunscreen suspected to be endocrine disrupting. Found in 4 sunscreens.
  • Benzyl salicylate is a perfume substance suspected to be endocrine disrupting. Found in 4 sunscreens.
  • Methylene bis-benzotriazolyl tetramethylbutylphenol is a sunscreen that is problematic for the environment. Found in 4 sunscreens.
  • Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate is a sunscreen suspected to be endocrine disrupting. The substance is also problematic for the environment. Found in 2 sunscreens in the test.
  • Benzophenone-3 is a sunscreen suspected to be endocrine disrupting. The substance is also problematic for the environment. Found in 1 sunscreen in the test.
  • Cyclopentasiloxane is a silicone substance suspected to be endocrine disrupting. It is also harmful to the environment as it accumulates in nature. Found in 1 sunscreen.
  • BHT is an antioxidant suspected to be endocrine disrupting. Found in 1 sunscreen.
  • Butylphenyl methylpropional is a perfume substance suspected to be endocrine disrupting. Found in 1 sunscreen.
  • Salicylic acid (salicylic acid) suspected to be endocrine disrupting and to impair fertility. Found in 1 sunscreen in the test.
  • Isoamyl P-methoxycinnamate is a sunscreen suspected of being an endocrine disruptor. Found in 1 sunscreen.

Consider whether these substances should be in your sunscreen

  • Perfume can cause allergies. It may therefore be a good idea to limit how much perfume you are exposed to overall. The same goes for plant extracts that can cause allergies. Some of the perfume substances can also be problematic for the environment.
  • EDTA compounds can help release heavy metals otherwise bound in nature. The substance is not permitted in eco-labeled products.

Several UV filters are suspected endocrine disruptors

In total, 6 different UV filters have been found in the 36 sunscreens that are suspected of being endocrine disruptors.

The substances are, among other things, on the Danish Environmental Protection Agency's joint authority list from June 2020 of substances suspected of endocrine disruptors and on the EU Commission's priority list of possible endocrine disruptors in cosmetics and care products.

Nano sunscreens are not rated

Nano-compounds are not included in the test assessments. The EU has approved the use of certain nanomaterials in care products. It has been judged safe as long as the product is used on undamaged skin and not as an aerosol spray. Under the individual products in the test, you can see if they contain nano. Nano is not allowed in Nordic Ecolabelled products.

If you have eczema or other damage to the skin, it may be a good idea to avoid sunscreen with nano. Choose Swan-labeled sunscreen if you want to avoid nano. Alternatively, you can check the ingredient list, where "nano" should appear after the substance's name.

6 good advice for better sun protection
  • Avoid the sun between 12 and 15 o'clock, where it is strongest.
  • Shade, clothes and sun hat are good sun protection without problematic chemicals.
  • Children are especially exposed to the sun. Children under 1 year must be in the shade. Older children should also have other primary sun protection than sunscreen.
  • Use the right factor. Minimum factor 15 in Denmark and minimum factor 30 in countries where the sun is stronger. Also remember extra factor if you are on / by the water.
  • Use a handful of sunscreen, distribute it well, and apply several coats to get adequate protection.
  • Remember to re-lubricate regularly, and especially if you sweat a lot, bathe, dry yourself in a towel and other things that make the sunscreen disappear.
What the companies say

L'Oreal, responsible for the brands La Roche-Posa, Biotherm, Vichy and Garnier:

"Safety for our consumers is our most important goal, and we never compromise on the safety and effectiveness of our products. UV filters protect against sunburn, skin cancer and skin aging, among other things. Sun products, like other cosmetic products, are subject to a thorough safety assessment. This ensures that the ingredients used are legal and they are used in concentrations that are safe for the consumer.

We do not agree with the way Kemiluppen works. The division of products on the basis of the presence of ingredients does not provide the consumer with information on either safety or environmental impact, and we do not recognize Kemiluppen's use and definition of problematic chemicals.

At L’Oréal, we have been working for many years to improve the environmental footprint of our products. With our sustainability strategy L’Oréal For The Future, we focus on the products ’environmental footprint throughout our supply chain, from the choice of raw materials over production to the choice of packaging and the handling of packaging as waste. We also look at the impact of the formulas on the aquatic environment and degradation in treatment plants. Since 1993, we at L’Oréal have had our own eco-tox laboratory. "

Relaterede artikler