PCPC Responds to Sunscreen Report

The Personal Care Product Council’s (PCPC) Farah Ahmed, chair of PCPC’s sunscreen task force, has responded to a recent Environmental Working Group (EWG) sunscreen report.

Ahmed comments, “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.

“Unprotected sun exposure increases cancer risk, and sunscreen has been scientifically proven to reduce that risk. Nevertheless, EWG’s report cites increasing skin cancer rates and questions sunscreen efficacy in fighting this dangerous disease.  The report fails to consider that higher skin cancer rates are the result of excessive unprotected sun exposure from several previous decades as well as the ability today to better track, monitor, and report the occurrence of the disease.

“The dangers of the sun are clear and widely recognized by scientists and dermatologists. The World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health identify solar UV radiation as a carcinogen. A single bad burn as a child increases the skin’s susceptibility to damage and skin cancer throughout life. Consumers can be confident that sunscreen products, when used as directed and 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.

“For more information about the safety and efficacy of sunscreens please visit the Personal Care Product Council’s safety website, www.CosmeticsInfo.org or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website.

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