Statement by Alexandra Kowcz, Chief Scientist, Personal Care Products Council, in Response to the Environmental Working Group’s 2021 Sunscreens Guide



Lisa Powers, (202) 297-1232,
Stefanie Harrington, (202) 615-6558,
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 use is a crucial and well-recognized step in the fight against skin cancer. It is unfortunate that just as Americans are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel in the fight against COVID-19 and will soon be spending more time outdoors, the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) 2021 Guide to Sunscreens unnecessarily alarms consumers with information that may be harmful to public health. More importantly, EWG’s claims could keep consumers from using sunscreen altogether.

“EWG’s 2021 shopping guide contains little new information in comparison to previous reports. For example, this report claims that sunscreens containing zinc oxide, titanium dioxide or both as active ingredients are better for consumers and implies a conclusion that the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) – the agency that regulates sunscreens in the U.S. – did not reach. EWG suggests that sunscreen products containing other active ingredients may be harmful. FDA has rejected this characterization and has publicly stated that Americans should continue to use sunscreens.

“Working with our industry, FDA has requested additional information on some sunscreen ingredients, emphasizing that this does not mean that the ingredients are unsafe. Ensuring that consumers have access to products containing a broad variety of sunscreen active ingredients is critical and an important contribution to FDA’s public health mission.

“EWG also claims that the majority of sunscreen products in the marketplace today offer inferior broad-spectrum protection from UV radiation. It is important to note that all sunscreen products in today’s marketplace are regulated by FDA as over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. FDA requires rigorous testing for sunscreen effectiveness (both Sun Protection Factor [SPF] and Broad Spectrum). Broad-spectrum sunscreens must protect against both UVB and UVA radiation. Consumers can be confident that these reliable and credible testing methods, which are well recognized by scientific experts and regulatory authorities across the globe, result in sunscreens that are safe and effective in protecting them from harmful UV rays.

Oxybenzone and Homosalate
“Oxybenzone, unjustly criticized by EWG every year, is one of the few FDA-approved ingredients that provides safe and effective broad-spectrum protection, and has been approved and safely used since 1978. Additionally, it is approved for use in Europe, Canada, Japan, Australia, China, Korea, Mexico, Taiwan and Brazil. Oxybenzone protects against UVA rays, which penetrate more deeply into the skin and have been scientifically proven to contribute to skin cancer.

“Homosalate is another active ingredient mentioned in EWG’s guide. This UV filter has also been approved by FDA for use in sunscreens since 1978 and has a long history of use in Europe, Japan, China, Australia, Canada and South America.

Sunscreens and Sun Safety
“The American Cancer Society, American Academy of Dermatology, the Mayo Clinic and the Skin Cancer Foundation recommend using sunscreen as part of a safe-sun regimen to prevent skin cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Sun Safety recommendations note the importance of daily sunscreen use, including on cloudy and overcast days, to help prevent most skin cancers. Sun exposure dangers 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 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • 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 continues to be to help consumers make informed decisions and use sunscreen as an important part of a daily 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 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, makeup and fragrance – personal care products companies are global leaders committed to product safety, quality and innovation.