News Room

Statement by Farah Ahmed, Chair, Sunscreen Committee Personal Care Products Council in Response to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) 2014 Sunscreen Report

May 20, 2014
Contact:  Lisa Powers, (202) 466-0489 or Hayley McConnell, (202) 454-0302
“This year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released its annual sunscreen report along with a sun safety campaign.  While there are several points in the campaign that we agree with – mainly, “[o]ur hope is that sun protection will become as much of a habit as putting on your seatbelt,”  we are disappointed that, despite the extensive and growing body of credible science demonstrating the safety, efficacy and health benefits of sunscreens, EWG continues to make false and misleading statements about sunscreen products and their ingredients.  Once again, EWG does not use formal, expert scientific evaluation in its report, and the report is not peer-reviewed.  These confusing, unsubstantiated claims could actually discourage people from using sunscreen, putting themselves and their children at risk.
Sunscreen Sprays and Powders Are Safe
“The EWG campaign raises false concerns about the safety of sunscreen sprays and powders.  In its proposed rule, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) simply requested further information on the unique spray dosage form and proposed a few labeling changes.  The Council and its member companies submitted significant data to address the Agency’s request.  Scientists and dermatologists have expressed their support of sprays and powders and their desire to allow consumers access to these products.  Until FDA makes its final decision, these sprays and powders can remain on the market and provide consumers with additional sunscreen choices.
Daily Moisturizer with SPF is Effective
“Any product labeled with an SPF – whether a beach sunscreen, daily moisturizer, foundation, lip gloss, etc. – must meet the same rigorous SPF and “Broad Spectrum” testing and labeling requirements required by FDA.  EWG states that moisturizers (and other makeup) with sun protection factor (SPF) are somehow less effective.  This is untrue and makes no sense.  Providing a wide variety of sunscreen options is an effective way to encourage its daily use.
Super-High SPFs
“EWG’s super-high SPF discussion is completely inaccurate.  In fact, their lack of basic understanding of SPF is demonstrated in their assertion that SPF refers only to UVB protection.  These are the facts: 
1)  An SPF number can account for up to 20 percent of UVA protection, especially in the higher SPF ranges.  FDA stated that the SPF test is accurate for high SPFs, specifically for SPFs through 50.  The Agency was unclear about whether higher SPFs provide additional meaningful benefit.  This is reflected in the scientific community as experts are currently divided.  We understand that FDA has received comments in support of, and opposed to, allowing for ultra high SPFs.  It is now up to FDA to make a determination, and once they do, the industry will certainly comply.  Until then, ultra high SPFs will remain on the market for consumers who wish to use them. 
2)  EWG states that European consumers can get “better” sunscreens, which is not true. U.S. sunscreen ingredients allow the formulation of products that meet all global standards for SPF and UVA, including European and Canadian criteria.  Europe allows for a greater variety of sunscreen ingredients, but this does not mean that they have “better” ingredients or product formulations, but rather, there are a greater variety of sunscreen ingredients and sunscreen formulations.  It is important to keep in mind that sunscreens in the U.S. are regulated as over-the-counter drugs and must pass the rigors of all applicable drug regulatory requirements.  In Europe, sunscreens are regulated as cosmetics. 
Oxybenzone, Vitamin A Safe, Used Globally
“Contrary to EWG’s claims, the global safety profile for oxybenzone is comprehensive and robust, and current scientific research shows no connection between oxybenzone and endocrine or hormone disruption.  Oxybenzone is an FDA approved over-the-counter sunscreen active ingredient.  It provides broad-spectrum protection from both UVA and UVB rays.  In addition to the FDA, Health Canada and the European Union Cosmetic Ingredient Authority have approved the use of oxybenzone as a safe and effective sunscreen ingredient. 
“Retinyl palmitate has been used safely in personal care products, including sunscreen, for many years and is also approved by the FDA for use as a food additive.   EWG’s report claims that retinyl palmitate, or vitamin A, is unsafe for use in sunscreens, which contradicts scientific consensus. 
Sunscreen Important Part of an Overall Safe Sun Routine
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), the Skin Cancer Foundation and health care professionals around the world all emphasize the safety of sunscreens and the importance of their use as part of a safe sun regimen.  The dangers of sun exposure are clear and universally recognized by public health professionals and dermatologists.  The National Institutes of Health Report on Carcinogens identifies solar UV radiation as a ‘known human carcinogen.’ A single bad burn as a child is known to increase the skin’s susceptibility to damage and skin cancer throughout life.
“Our goal is to help consumers make informed decisions and use sunscreen as an important part of an overall safe sun regimen.  Sunscreen is a crucial step in the fight against skin cancer and premature skin aging.  Echoing the statement we made in 2013, our hope is that sun protection will become as much of a habit as putting on your seatbelt.  
“For more information on the importance of safe sun practices, please watch our Skin Smart educational video series.” 
National Institutes of Health “Report on Carcinogens” – Identifies solar UV radiation as a known human carcinogen.   
Mayo Clinic – A single bad burn as a child is known to increase the skin’s susceptibility to damage and skin cancer throughout life.
The Journal of Investigative Dermatology published a clinical study with whole body application of a commercial sunscreen product with 10% oxybenzone, no product-related changes to hormone levels were observed. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 123:57–61, 2004.
U.S. National Toxicology Program – Studied oxybenzone and found no indication from the data that the ingredient is endocrine disruptive.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – Reviewed and approved oxybenzone as a sunscreen ingredient since 1978 and continues to recognize it as safe and effective.
European Union Cosmetic Ingredient Authority – “Based on the actual scientific knowledge, the SCCNFP is of the opinion that the organic UV-filters used in cosmetic sunscreen products, allowed in the EU market today, have no estrogenic effects that could potentially affect human health.”  
Health Canada – Has reviewed and approved oxybenzone as a safe and effective sunscreen ingredient.   
For more information on cosmetic and personal care products, please visit
Based in Washington, D.C., the Personal Care Products Council is the leading national trade association representing the global cosmetic and personal care products industry. Founded in 1894, the Council's more than 600 member companies manufacture, distribute, and supply the vast majority of finished personal care products marketed in the U.S.  As the makers of a diverse range of products millions of consumers rely on every day, from sunscreens, toothpaste and shampoo to moisturizer, lipstick and fragrance, personal care products companies are global leaders committed to product safety, quality and innovation.