Statement by Alexandra Kowcz, Chief Scientist, Personal Care Products Council in Response to the Environmental Working Group’s 2020 Sunscreens Report



Lisa Powers, (202) 297-1232,
Jamie Kurke, (202) 258-5285,

Washington, D.C. – “The cosmetics and personal care products industry is proud of the innovative sunscreen products we provide to help protect consumers from the harmful effects of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.  Sunscreen is a crucial and well-recognized step in the fight against skin cancer.  It is unfortunate that at precisely the time that COVID-19 stay at home orders are being lifted and Americans may be heading to beaches and pools, the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) 2020 Guide to Sunscreens attempts to needlessly scare consumers with false claims and misinformation that can be potentially harmful to public health.

“Year after year, EWG’s shopping guide contains little new information in comparison to their previous reports, and their 2020 edition is no different. More importantly, the claims made by EWG could actually keep consumers from using sunscreen altogether. For example, EWG’s recommendation about which sunscreens consumers should use (i.e. those containing only zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as active ingredients) implies a conclusion that the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) itself did not reach. EWG suggests that sunscreen products containing other active ingredients are unsafe or ineffective. FDA has rejected this characterization and has publicly stated that Americans should continue to use sunscreens and also stated that the results from the Agency’s study does not mean that the ingredient is unsafe, nor does the FDA seeking further information indicate such. Instead, FDA has requested additional information and our industry is working closely with the Agency to supply the information.

“EWG also claims that three fourths of sunscreen products in the marketplace today offer inferior UV protection (according to EWG’s testing methods). It is important to note that all sunscreen products in today’s marketplace are regulated by the FDA as over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.  FDA requires rigorous testing for sunscreen effectiveness (both Sun Protection Factor [SPF] and Broad Spectrum). Consumers can be confident that these reliable and credible testing methods that are well recognized by experts and regulatory authorities across the globe 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. The methods used by EWG have not been subject to scrutiny or approval by any scientific or regulatory agency.

Oxybenzone and Retinyl Palmitate

“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 and safely used since 1978. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), available peer-reviewed scientific literature, and current regulatory assessments from national and international bodies around the world, there is no causal link between oxybenzone use in sunscreen and significant hormonal alterations or health issues in humans.

In addition, another ingredient called out 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 also is an ingredient approved by the FDA for use in sunscreens and several other OTC products.

Sunscreens and Sun Safety

“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 sunscreens 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 Toxicology Program 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 using your seat belt.”


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Based in Washington, D.C., the Personal Care Products Council (PCPC) is the leading national trade association representing global cosmetics and personal care products companies. Founded in 1894, PCPC’s approximately 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 and trust 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.