From parents to dermatologists, the mantra has always been the same: Wear. Your. Sunscreen. It doesn’t matter the season or the length of exposure – if you’re headed outside you need to be protected from the sun’s harmful rays.
What most fail to add to these warnings, however, is that while you’re perusing the aisle of nearly endless sunscreen choices you might as well be walking down a dusty street in the Wild West. The over-the-counter – and thus non-prescription – sunscreen market severely lacks regulation and the accuracy of the claims made on bottles can vary wildly; as can the safety of their contents.
To date, only two ingredients of the main 16 used in sunscreen production are considered safe and effective by the FDA: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. The compounds rely on metal and mineral interactions to keep skin safe from harmful ultraviolet radiation rather than a concoction of chemicals. Two of those chemicals – PABA and trolamine salicylate – have been named as not permitted for use in sunscreens not obtained by prescription.
In moving to increase regulation on sunscreen makers, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said that “some of the essential requirements for [sunscreen] haven’t been updated in decades.” The new rules are meant to expand on and clarify the rules for sunscreen manufacturers that dictate how they can sell and market their products.
The Environmental Working Group praised the move, saying that it was a “big step toward cleaning up a largely unregulated industry.”
Like so many other products, when it comes to sunscreen, today’s consumers need to use the information they have available to them and work to educate themselves about what they choose to bring into their homes. Not all products are created equal and it’s up to all of us to determine the differences and keep ourselves and our families safe.