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Not all sunscreens provide the protection they're supposed to

As many Illinoisans prepare to head to the beach, the lake or the pool after a long, cold winter, most of us are slathering on sunscreen to protect ourselves and our kids from sun damage and skin cancer. While sunscreens have various SPF levels, SPF 30 is the minimum recommended by dermatologists.

However, according to Consumer Reports, approximately three-quarters of the sunscreens they tested don't provide the level of protection that the SPF level listed on their products should. Almost 70 percent in a larger study by the Environmental Working Group were determined to be ineffective and/or unsafe.

Many people may be surprised to learn that sunscreens are not among the products tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Currently, as one dermatologist noted, testing is only required by manufacturers and "in some cases, they don't even have to submit their results."

So how are consumers to know if their sunscreen will protect them and their family, as it claims to do. There are plenty of sources, including Consumer Reports and Livestrong, that rank sunscreens. Further, chemical sunscreens are generally more effective than those with minerals or that are advertised as "natural."

In addition to finding an effective sunscreen with a 30 or higher SPF level, depending on the sensitivity of your skin and how prone you are to burn, it's important to make sure that you use it on all exposed areas and that you reapply it every two to four hours, particularly if you're spending time in the water or engaging in sports where you are perspiring heavily.

If you've used a sunscreen properly and you or your child suffers sun damage, it may be worthwhile to determine what your legal options are. By holding manufacturers of ineffective sunscreens legally accountable, consumers can help ensure that the same harm isn't suffered by others.

Source: WTOP, "Some sunscreens may not live up to SPF claims," Teta Alim, accessed May 31, 2017

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