Health group urges FDA to investigate sunscreen claims

Health group urges FDA to investigate sunscreen claims
© Getty Images

An environmental health group is calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate the ingredients that manufacturers use in sunscreens to boost sun protection factor (SPF) values.

The Environmental Working Group in a letter to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf on Thursday said it’s concerned that the ingredients being used only keep the skin from reddening — a warning sign of a sunburn — without truly offering enhanced protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.


“Such products may encourage people to remain in the sun, where, though they don’t see or sense burning, they may in fact sustain subtle or profound damage to the skin, potentially leading to cancer,” the group said in its letter.

While it appreciates the FDA’s efforts to regulate the safety and efficiency of sunscreens, the group said the current rules need to be updated to keep up with new formulas and marketing trends.

“The current testing methodology prescribed by FDA does not address the increasing use of anti-inflammatories, antioxidants and other ingredients that may boost SPF readings and mask reddening, the body’s early warning system that it is experiencing sun damage,” the group said in its letter. “Current testing requirements also have enabled the proliferation of high SPF claims that often cannot be verified.”

The group asked the FDA to finalize a rule it proposed in 2011 that would cap SPF values at 50-plus, citing high rates of skin cancer. They also want the agency to issue a rule requiring companies to display the lower value obtained from measuring the sun protection factor when determining the SPF of products.