The Sunscreen Innovation Act: Are We Finally Turning the Corner?

When it comes to sun safety and sun care products, the U.S. market has fallen far behind Europe in developing safer and more advanced sunscreen ingredients. One of the reasons why U.S. manufacturers have been slow to change and improve their product offerings in this area is the glacial pace that the FDA has taken in issuing new regulations and requirements. It took the FDA almost 14 years to finally update and issue the new, long-awaited rules in 2012 (see my post on this topic for more details: Update on the State of Sunscreens: The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same!)

During the arduous wait, the industry just kept doing what it had done before because it could, and because no one wanted to invest time and precious $$ to re-formulate and re-package until they knew what they could continue to get away with and what they were going to have to change. Then when the FDA finally issued the new rules, there was so little by way of meaningful change that the industry has, with minor exceptions, essentially continued to do what it was doing before: making products with ridiculously high and dangerously deceptive SPF numbers; continuing to use many of the same sunscreen chemicals in spite of research showing many of them to be harmful; and adding other ingredients to their formulations like Vitamin A, which is now proving to actually increase your risk of skin cancer!

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has been rating sunscreens since 2007, putting together an annual Sunscreen Guide, and each time the report finds that roughly half the products on the U.S. market are unlikely to provide even the minimum level of protection required in Europe. Currently, eight new sunscreen chemicals are under review at the FDA, and six of them have been awaiting a decision for more than eight years. The FDA has never acted on promising sunscreen ingredients that have been sold for years in Europe, Australia, Japan and Canada, limiting the sunscreen options for American consumers.

Well, nothing stokes the fires of innovation like competition! European manufacturers have been toting the fact they have more advanced and safer sunscreens and now Americans want and deserve them too. So last week Congress introduced a new bill called the Sunscreen Innovation Act. If passed, this bill would expedite the Food and Drug Administration’s process for reviewing new sunscreen ingredients while ensuring that it has the authority to keep unsafe products off the market.

Let’s hope this will prompt the FDA to finally get moving and get real about regulating sun care products to ensure more products with safer and more effective ingredients can become available as soon as possible. The Sunscreen Innovation Act now goes to the Senate, which is expected to take it up in September. You may want to start writing or calling your representatives to urge them to take this issue more seriously and vote for the bill

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