PCPC hits back at EWG sunscreen allegations

By Michelle Yeomans

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Sunscreen formulations Sunscreen

Cosmetics trade association the Personal Care Products Council (PCPC) has responded to the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) allegations that retinyl palmitate and oxybenzone found in sunscreen formulations are unsafe.

In its most recent annual report, the EWG specifically focused in on retinyl palmitate (used in some sunscreen formulations to condition and moisturize) and FDA-approved oxybenzone as to whether they were safe enough to be included in suncare formulations.  

In response to this, PCPC representative Farah Ahmed says the report is confusing consumers on what’s safe while also undermining the efforts of public health advocates to educate people about the importance of using sunscreen. “Allegations contained in the report disregard or distort an extensive body of scientific research on the safety, efficacy and health benefits of sunscreen.”

“By challenging the medical and scientific consensus that sunscreen products are safe and effective, the report defies the scientific assessments of sunscreen products and ingredients by regulatory authorities in the U.S., E.U., and Canada,”​ she adds.

Challenges / Refutes

According to the council, Oxybenzone, also known as Benzophenone-3, protects the skin from harmful UV rays and FDA and regulatory authorities in Canada and the European Union have approved its use 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,”​ says Ahmed.

Furthermore the PCPC homes in on the report’s 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.”

Finally, Ahmed says 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.” 


In the U.S. sunscreens are regulated as over-the-counter drugs by the FDA and are subject to rigorous safety and efficacy substantiation. 
Last June, the FDA ordered comprehensive new sunscreen regulations that were scheduled to go into effect on June 18, 2012. But this month the FDA announced it is now giving the industry an extra six months to make changes, meaning they will take effect in mid-December instead of this summer.

As part of the proposed changes sunscreens can only be labelled ‘broad spectrum’ if they block both UVA and UVB rays.
Products with SPFs below 15 must display a warning that it has not been shown to help prevent skin cancer or early skin aging and the terms ‘sunblock,’ ‘sweatproof,’ and ‘waterproof’ will no longer be permitted.

Sunscreens that claim to be ‘water-resistant,’ must specify whether they protect skin for 40 or 80 minutes of swimming or sweating, based on standard testing, whilst they may no longer claim to provide sun protection for more than two hours without submitting test results to prove it.

Related topics Regulation & Safety Skin Care

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