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Why US consumers are upset with Jessica Alba’s line of sunscreen

Jessica Alba may have healthy, flawless skin, but users of her company’s sunscreen can’t say the same: U.S. consumers who relied on her Honest Company sunblock, have taken to social media to showcase their sunburns after using the product.

The Honest Company, cofounded by Alba, says it focuses on making “natural mineral-based” skin products and non-toxic household goods. The sunscreen at the centre of the controversy may not be as effective as its counterparts, according to its sunburnt users.

U.S. reports suggest the product claims to offer broad spectrum coverage – that’s protection against UVA and UVB rays – with “everything you need, nothing you don’t.”

READ MORE: What you need to know about sunscreen and protecting your skin

In an independent investigation led by NBC Chicago, journalists alleged that the brand’s sunblock has less than standard levels of zinc oxide, which is a key ingredient in protecting the skin. NBC said the sunscreen has 9.3 per cent zinc oxide. Typically, sunscreen contains about 18 to 25 per cent, the network said.

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The investigators said the sunblock once contained about 20 per cent of zinc. It was cut down, but the company said it replaced it with other ingredients to keep the product effective.

NBC asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to weigh in: the federal department simply said that manufacturers need to test their own products and that the agency doesn’t verify testing or expect companies to divulge their results.

The Honest Company told the Today Show that it stands by its product, though.

READ MORE: 5 tips for a healthy summer long weekend

“Our Sunscreen Lotion was tested, by an independent 3rd party, against the protocols prescribed by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) monograph for over-the-counter sunscreen products. The results showed that our product is effective and safe for use as an 80 minute water-resistant (FDA’s highest rating), SPF 30 sunscreen lotion in accordance with FDA regulations when used as directed,” the statement said.

“The number of complaints received on our own website about our Sunscreen Lotion constitute less than one half of one percent of all units actually sold at honest.com. We stand behind the safety and efficacy of this product.”

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The Canadian Dermatology Association recommends a sunblock with SPF 30 or higher.

There are three spectrums of light – ultraviolet A (long rays) is tied to aging the skin, ultraviolet B (short rays) can lead to burns and ultraviolet C isn’t as worrisome because most of the rays are absorbed by the ozone layer, according to Dr. Kucy Pon, a dermatologist at Sunnybrook Hospital.

UVA and UVB can contribute to skin cancer and damaging your skin, she warns.

READ MORE: Is aerosol sunscreen safe for you? Inhaling chemicals is a concern

An SPF 30 would cover off about 97 per cent of UVB rays, but wearing a higher SPF may be your best bet because it’ll be more effective. It’s easy for consumers to miss spots or apply too little to certain parts of their body so the higher protection would compensate, according to dermatologist Dr. Anatoli Freiman.

If you’ve had skin cancer or a strong family history of the disease, stick to a higher SPF.

Sunblock should be applied 15 minutes before going outside. If you happen to forget and head out, apply it as soon as possible anyway – Freiman said it should start working immediately.

READ MORE: How extreme heat affects the body

As a general rule of thumb, if you’re applying sunscreen from head to toe, use a shot glass-sized amount – or two tablespoons. Use half of a teaspoon for each part of your body – half of a teaspoon for your face, another half for your left leg, for example.

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carmen.chai@globalnews.ca