The Best and Worst Sunscreens, According to Researchers

iStock
iStock

Still squeezing the last gloopy drops out of last year’s sunscreen bottle? Throw it out. It’s expired, for one thing. But you may also want to switch brands after reading the 2017 sunscreen report issued by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which finds that the majority of products on the market are ineffective, contain harmful ingredients, or both.

EWG researchers examined the safety and effectiveness of almost 1500 products, including sunscreen, moisturizers, and lip balms with SPF values.

The results were not reassuring. “The vast majority of sunscreens available to Americans aren’t as good as they should be,” senior research analyst Sonya Lunder said in a statement. In their report, Lunder and her colleagues emphasize the differences between sunscreen consumer protection in the United States and elsewhere.

“This year, we estimate that nearly every sunscreen we reviewed passes the FDA test,” the EWG researchers write, "but that about half of them would not offer enough UVA protection to be sold in Europe.”

The FDA has a cap on the percentage of active ingredients allowed, and most products use the same one, which means that a sunblock with SPF 100 may be no more effective than one with SPF 30. To get around this, some American products artificially inflate their SPF rating by using chemicals to prevent sunburn’s redness without actually protecting our skin from sun damage.

“High SPF is a marketing gimmick,” said David Andrews, a senior scientist at EWG. “SPF values over 50 mislead people into thinking they are completely protected from sunburn and long-term skin damage. But instead, they may encourage people to spend more time in the sun, exposing themselves to more, not less, ultraviolet rays.”

Many of the sunscreens also contain ingredients like oxybenzone, which can affect our hormones, and vitamin A, which can make us even more sensitive to the Sun.

Some of the EWG's best-rated sunscreens:

1. Tom's of Maine Baby Sunscreen Lotion
2. Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Dry-Touch Sunscreen
3. Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Sensitive Skin Lotion Sunscreen
4. Badger All Season Face Stick
5. Kiss My Face Organics Face & Body Sunscreen

Some of the best moisturizers with SPF:

1. Cetaphil Redness Relieving Daily Facial Moisturizer
2. The Body Shop Aloe Soothing Moisture Lotion, Sensitive Skin
3. La Roche-Posay Anthelios SX Daily Moisturizing Cream
4. Eucerin Daily Hydration Moisturizer and Sunscreen
5. Aveda Daily Light Guard Defense Fluid

Some of the worst for kids:

1. Coppertone Sunscreen Lotion Kids
2. CVS Health Children's Sunstick Sunscreen
3. Banana Boat Kids Continuous Spray Sunscreen
4. Coppertone Foaming Lotion Sunscreen Kids Wacky Foam
5. Equate Baby Sunscreen Lotion

To keep yourself and your skin safe, the EWG suggests the following steps.

First, recognize that sunscreen should not be your only form of sun protection. Sunglasses, shade, and hats are often far more effective.

“There is little scientific evidence to suggest that sunscreen alone reduces cancer risk,” the authors write, “particularly for melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer. Despite a growing awareness of the dangers of exposure to the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation, and a multibillion-dollar sunscreen industry, melanoma rates have tripled over the past three decades.”

Second, use the guide to find the best products for you and your family. Stay away from oxybenzone and vitamin A. Avoid sprays, which just don’t work as well as we hope they will.

Third, apply liberally and often. You should use about a shot glass’s worth of sunscreen each time.

Finally, don’t forget to replace your sunscreen twice a year. After six months or so, the active ingredients begin to lose their punch.

Note: Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

6 Fun Backgrounds to Use on Your Next Video Call

You might be stuck in the living room, but it doesn't have to look like it.
You might be stuck in the living room, but it doesn't have to look like it.
Ridofranz/iStock via Getty Images

If you’re struggling to find a perfectly decorated wall in your house to serve as the backdrop for your video calls with friends, family, and coworkers, we have good news: Video conferencing platform Zoom lets you customize your very own virtual background.

To do it, log into your Zoom account, go to “Settings” on the left side of your screen, and choose the "Meeting" tab. Scroll down to the “In Meeting (Advanced)” section, and then scroll down farther to make sure the “Virtual background” option is enabled. After that, open the Zoom application on your desktop, click on the “Settings” wheel in the upper right corner, and go to “Virtual Background.” There are a few automatic options, but you can choose your own image from your computer files by clicking on the plus-sign icon.

Now, the only thing left to do is decide which image will best set the tone for your next video call. From the New York Public Library’s Rose Reading Room to Schitt’s Creek’s Rosebud Motel, here are six of our favorites.

1. The Rosebud Motel lobby from Schitt’s Creek

schitt's creek rose motel lobby
It's not the Ritz-Carlton.
CBC

You can imagine that David is just out of frame, doing his best to carry on a silent—albeit with lots of expressive gesturing—conversation with Stevie at the front desk. (More Schitt's Creek backgrounds here.)

2. Carl and Ellie’s house from Up

carl and ellie's house from up
Balloons not included.
Walt Disney Pictures

If you’re hoping to create a calming atmosphere, look no further than the cozy little sitting room where Carl and Ellie grew old together in 2009's Up. (More Pixar backgrounds here.)

3. The attic study from Knives Out

knives out attic study
Nothing bad has ever happened here.
Lionsgate

If your own study isn’t quite teeming with intriguing souvenirs and leather-bound volumes, feel free to borrow this one from the mansion in 2019’s Knives Out. (More Knives Out backgrounds here.)

4. The USS Enterprise from Star Trek

star trek's uss enterprise bridge
A great way to get your coworkers to fess up to being huge Trekkies.
TrekCore.com, Twitter

Blame your spotty internet connection on the fact that you’re traveling through the galaxy at the speed of light with this background from the bridge of Star Trek’s USS Enterprise. (More Star Trek backgrounds here.)

5. The New York Public Library’s Rose Reading Room

new york public library reading room
You reserve the right to shush any coworkers who forgot to mute themselves.
New York Public Library

Bibliophiles who can’t make it to the library can still pay a virtual visit to the sumptuous Rose Main Reading Room at the New York Public Library’s iconic Fifth Avenue location. (More New York Public Library backgrounds here.)

6. The Werk Room from RuPaul’s Drag Race

rupaul's drag race werk room
Sashay away from the screen if you're taking a bathroom break during the call.
VH1

Dazzle your coworkers by calling in from the vibrant room where all the magic—and most of the drama—happens on RuPaul’s Drag Race. If you happen to be decked out in an ensemble made entirely of things you found at the Dollar Store, even better. (More RuPaul's Drag Race backgrounds here.)

You Can Now Order—and Donate—Girl Scout Cookies Online

It's OK if you decide to ignore the recommended serving size on a box of these beauties.
It's OK if you decide to ignore the recommended serving size on a box of these beauties.
Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts may have temporarily suspended both cookie booths and door-to-door sales to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be deprived of your annual supply of everyone’s favorite boxed baked goods. Instead, you can now order Thin Mints, Tagalongs, and all the other classic cookies online—or donate them to local charities.

When you enter your ZIP code on the “Girl Scouts Cookie Care” page, it’ll take you to a digital order form for the nearest Girl Scouts organization in your area. Then, simply choose your cookies—which cost $5 or $6 per box—and check out with your payment and shipping information. There’s a minimum of four boxes for each order, and shipping fees vary based on quantity.

Below the list of cookies is a “Donate Cookies” option, which doesn’t count toward your own order total and doesn’t cost any extra to ship. You get to choose how many boxes to donate, but the Girl Scouts decide which kinds of cookies to send and where exactly to send them (the charity, organization, or group of people benefiting from your donation is listed on the order form). There’s a pretty wide range of recipients, and some are specific to healthcare workers—especially in regions with particularly large coronavirus outbreaks. The Girl Scouts of Greater New York, for example, are sending donations to NYC Health + Hospitals, while the Girl Scouts of Western Washington have simply listed “COVID-19 Responders” as their recipients.

Taking their cookie business online isn’t the only way the Girl Scouts are adapting to the ‘stay home’ mandates happening across the country. They’ve also launched “Girl Scouts at Home,” a digital platform filled with self-guided activities so Girl Scouts can continue to learn skills and earn badges without venturing farther than their own backyard. Resources are categorized by grade level and include everything from mastering the basics of coding to building a life vest for a Corgi (though the video instructions for that haven’t been posted yet).

“For 108 years, Girl Scouts has been there in times of crisis and turmoil,” Girl Scouts of the USA CEO Sylvia Acevedo said in a press release. “And today we are stepping forward with new initiatives to help girls, their families, and consumers connect, explore, find comfort, and take action.”

You can order cookies here, and explore “Girl Scouts at Home” here.

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