Statement by Alexandra Kowcz, Chief Scientist Personal Care Products Council In Response to the Environmental Working Group’s 2018 Guide to Sunscreens

May 31 2018

Washington, D.C. – The cosmetics and personal care products industry is proud of the innovative sunscreen products we provide that help protect consumers from the harmful effects of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.   Sunscreen is a crucial step in the fight against skin cancer and premature skin aging. While the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) 2018 Guide to Sunscreens helps raise awareness about the dangers of unprotected sun exposure, the report also contains several inaccuracies that can be harmful to public health.

“Year after year, EWG’s shopping guide contains little new information in comparison to previous reports, and their 2018 edition is no different. More importantly, the false claims made by EWG could actually keep consumers from using sunscreen altogether. For example, EWG’s assertion that there’s no evidence sunscreens prevent most skin cancers is not just false—it is irresponsible.

“Sun protection and sunscreen use are critical to preventing skin cancer and premature skin aging. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, approximately 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers and 86 percent of melanomas are associated with exposure to UV radiation. Daily use of an SPF 15 or higher reduces the risk of developing melanoma by 50 percent.

“The U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) sunscreen testing requirements are well recognized by experts and regulatory authorities across the globe. It is important to note that the FDA regulates sunscreens as over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and requires rigorous testing for sunscreen effectiveness (both SPF and Broad Spectrum). Consumers can rest assured that these reliable and credible testing methods result in sunscreens that are safe and effective in protecting them from harmful UV rays. Broad spectrum sunscreens must protect against both UVB and UVA radiation.      

“Oxybenzone, unjustly criticized every year by EWG, is one of the few FDA-approved ingredients that provides safe and effective broad-spectrum protection from UV radiation, and has been approved for use since 1978. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), available peer-reviewed scientific literature, and regulatory assessments from national and international bodies around the world, there is no link between oxybenzone in sunscreen and hormonal alterations or any other significant health issues in humans.

“Another ingredient highlighted is retinyl palmitate which is a form of vitamin A that is sometimes used in sunscreen and cosmetic products as an antioxidant and to enhance skin suppleness.  It is permitted by the FDA for use in sunscreens and several other OTC products.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), the Skin Cancer Foundation and health care professionals worldwide all emphasize the importance of sunscreen 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.

“Some simple tips for sun safety include:

  • Avoiding the sun during the peak hours of 10am-4pm
  • Wearing sun protective clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV protective sunglasses
  • Using a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every day, even on cloudy days
  • Reapplying sunscreen every two hours or immediately after swimming or sweating
  • Seeing your health care professional every year for a skin exam

“Our goal is and continues to be to help consumers make informed decisions and use sunscreen as an important part of an overall safe sun program. It is our hope that using sunscreen becomes as much of a habit as putting on your seatbelt.”