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The Uncertain Future of UV Filters

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Formulators and marketers of sun care products are facing consumer and regulatory confusion on several fronts, according to the Sunscreen Review Roundtable at this past SCC Annual Meeting, which featured Roseann Termini, a food and drug law attorney, Guy German of Binghamton University, Edward Sargent of EV Sargent LLC and Joshua Williams of Johnson & Johnson. The lively discussion covered several of the top concerns for the industry.

1. After-sun Protection/Repair

New ingredients and products claim to counter the effects of sun exposure after the fact via antioxidant, anti-inflammatory or repair pathways. The question is whether these after-sun products offer real protection, said some, or whether they simply create more consumer confusion about pre-sun protective measures they should be taking.

2. Spray-on Formats

Panelists also discussed the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) continuing skepticism over the effectiveness of spray-on sun protection formats, particularly in comparison to creams. This is a critical concern, given the consumer acceptance of the easy and convenient spray format.

While some of the technical experts on the panel seemed perplexed by the dislike of lotions compared to sprays, most marketers in the sun care sector well know that texture, after-application skin feel and convenience of application make spray formats an easy winner with shoppers.

However, while these formats offer ease of use, they may put consumers—especially children, who often use these products unassisted—at risk of misapplication.

3. High-SPF Products

The group also pointed out that consumers tend to equate a higher SPF with greater levels of protection. Yet some noted that the impact of SPF 50-plus offerings is still unconfirmed.

4. Approving New Filters

The FDA is slow to approve new sunscreen filters because, once they approve a material as generally recognized as safe and effective (GRASE), it can be used in any formulation without any further FDA oversight.

5. Healthy Sunscreen Habits

Education is key to building sunscreen habits, the experts noted. Beginning early with children is often critical for impacting lifelong behaviors. The key hang-ups include convincing consumers to reapply protection at proper intervals. While high-SPF products could potentially bridge gaps in reapplication, some on the panel warned that extra protection could actually encourage consumers to reapply less frequently.

6. Issues on the Horizon

Concerns about nanomaterials and other materials in wastewater could put sunscreen in consumer and/or regulatory crosshairs, the panel noted. Improvements in waterproof formulations could potentially circumvent the issue, however.  

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