With the approach of summer, the spotlight is shining on sunscreen. A recent report issued by the Environmental Working Group questioning sunscreen’s safety drew a response from Farah Ahmed, Chair of the Personal Care Products Council Sunscreen Task Force. Based in Washington, D.C., the Personal Care Products Council is a national trade association representing the global cosmetic and personal care products industry.
Among other criticisms, the EWG’s report called out two ingredients-- retinyl palmitate, oxybenzone—as being unsafe. Ahmed and the Task Force responded:
“Consumers can be confident that sunscreen products, as part of an overall safe sun regimen, are safe and will help protect them from skin cancer, premature skin aging, and other damaging effects of the sun.
Allegations contained in the Environmental Working Group’s 2012 sunscreen report disregard or distort an extensive body of scientific research on the safety, efficacy and health benefits of sunscreen and could confuse consumers and discourage them from using sunscreen. With skin cancer rates on the rise, this does a great disservice to consumers and undermines the efforts of public health advocates to educate people about the importance of using sunscreen as part of their sun protection regimen.
By challenging the medical and scientific consensus that sunscreen products are safe and effective, the EWG report defies the scientific assessments of sunscreen products and ingredients by regulatory authorities in the U.S., E.U., and Canada. In the U.S. sunscreens are regulated as over-the-counter drugs by the FDA and are subject to rigorous safety and efficacy substantiation.
Experts at the Centers for Disease Control, the American Academy of Dermatology, the Skin Cancer Foundation, and health care professionals throughout the world also emphasize the safety of sunscreens and the importance of their use as part of a safe sun regimen.
Among the numerous allegations made in the report is the assertion that retinyl palmitate, an ingredient used in some sunscreens to condition and moisturize the skin, is unsafe. Retinyl palmitate, more commonly known as Vitamin A, has been used safely for many years in various personal care products, including sunscreen. It is approved by the FDA for use as a food additive and has been reviewed twice by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review and found to be safe. A large body of evidence suggests that retinoids have anti-cancer effects in humans.
EWG also questions the safety of an FDA-approved active ingredient in some sunscreens called oxybenzone. Oxybenzone, also known as Benzophenone-3, protects the skin from harmful UV rays. FDA and regulatory authorities in Canada and the European Union have approved the use of oxybenzone as a safe and effective sunscreen ingredient. While EWG alleges a connection between oxybenzone and hormone or endocrine disruption, current scientific research does not support such a link in humans.
The 2012 EWG report also claims that many sunscreen ingredients break down significantly when exposed to sunlight and quickly stop working. This is simply not true. Sunscreen formulators take into account the physical and chemical properties of the active ingredients to ensure they perform effectively and meet all established FDA requirements, to ensure they are effective when purchased by consumers.“
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