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What You Need to Know About the New Sunscreen Regulations

by Evelyn Theiss

Sifting through a tangle of new sunscreen regulations can be as irritating as some of the actual products themselves
The story on sunscreen continues to evolve with one step forward, and another step that is halted in midair.
Good news came two years ago, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finally stepped in to make sunscreen companies label their products more accurately—and began to ensure this accuracy would be based on a specific testing methodology.
Finally, manufacturers could only use the term “broad spectrum” if their products truly provided equal protection against cancer-causing UVA and UVB rays, and had an SPF of 15 or higher—but not beyond 50, because that was deemed unnecessary and more of a reason to raise prices than offer extra protection.
Truth in labeling is a good thing—something most people expect, and thought they were getting.
But some sunscreen manufacturers and consumers also know that honesty is sometimes not enough. That’s because the kind of chemicals that have been used in the past in sunscreens are some of the same ones that savvy consumers—those aware of the prevalence of toxins in so many personal-care products—would steer clear of, because research has shown some of the active ingredients in chemical sunscreens can be potential endocrine disruptors.
As you may know, there are two types of sunscreen: products with chemicals that absorb and disperse UV rays, and products that use inorganic ingredients, such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, to form a physical barrier between the skin and UV rays.
What to Use
Some dermatologists have long recommended the physical block sunscreens, which rely on the active ingredients zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, especially for those with allergies or sensitive skin. “It’s better to look for brands that are fragrance-free and contain physical, instead of chemical, sunblock ingredients,” says Dr. Rajani Katta, a professor of dermatology at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas.
Here’s the key: Physical sunscreen ingredients include only zinc oxide and titanium dioxide listed as active ingredients, compared to the array of active ingredients you’ll find on the label of a bottle or tube of chemical sunscreen.
“I prefer that patients with sensitive skin use physical sunblock because there are fewer ingredients in general, which means there is less likely to be irritation or an allergic reaction,” says Dr. Katta. Environmental activists and those concerned about toxin exposure also strongly recommend physical block sunscreens.
The Aesthetics of Sunscreen
But for a long time, physical sunscreens tended to create a kind of pale mask. Recent innovations in many product lines have made that far less of an issue. And that was what guided Kate Solomon, founder of Babo Botanicals, to develop a mineral sunscreen that provides broad spectrum protection but goes on sheer.
“I developed our New Daily Sheer Sunscreen for extra sensitive skin—it’s fragrance free and can be used on babies as well as adults,” Solomon says
Everyone Needs Protection
Those who are fair-skinned need few reminders that they should slather up to protect themselves. But they aren’t the only ones. People with dark skin are not immune to skin cancer—the famous singer Bob Marley, for example, died from melanoma at the age of 36.
Melanoma is the third most common type of skin cancer among all racial groups. A recent study done at Howard University in Washington, D.C. showed that 89 percent of basal cell carcinoma on naturally brown skin (which has more melanin) occur on the head or neck—because that’s where the highest exposure is.
“We want to encourage people with dark skin to protect it by wearing sunscreen daily,” says Tricia Trimble, founder of the Suntegrity line. That’s why her firm added a hue called Dark Tint to its 5 in 1 Natural Moisturizing Tinted Face Sunscreen line with SPF 30. Trimble created the line after losing her mother to melanoma.
Sunscreen Innovation Act
Last year, Congress unanimously passed the Sunscreen Innovation Act, which the President promptly signed into law, but what seemed like more good news has turned out to be underwhelming.
Lawmakers from both parties agreed that the FDA needed to speed up its review of new and potentially better sunscreen ingredients, some of which have languished at the agency for more than a decade. What spawned the law was that while countries around the world have long had access to sunscreens that many dermatologists and cancer research groups say are more effective at blocking the sun’s harmful rays, the U.S. had not expanded its list of approved sunscreen ingredients since 1999.
This summer was to be the one when more advanced sunscreens would be available in the U.S.
But earlier this year, the FDA rejected all eight applications for new sunscreen ingredients, directing companies to provide still more data before the products can be considered “generally recognized as safe and effective.”
That could take months, or, more likely, years. So in the meantime, dermatologists say, physical sunblocks remain the best option.
babo botanicals_SPF 40 face_tubeBabo Botanicals New Daily Sheer Sunscreen (SPF 40)
This product is designed for extra sensitive skin and daily use. It is packed with pure flower and plant extracts. It is fragrance-free, ultra-sheer and lightweight, with soothing and moisturizing ingredients including aloe, white tea, avocado and jojoba oil. babobotanicals.com
Suntegrity 5 in 1 Natural Moisturizing Tinted Face Sunscreen (SPF 30) Antioxidants help fight free radical damage, and moisturizing ingredients include red algae and certified organic aloe vera, jojoba, sunflower and pomegranate. Non-nano sized zinc oxide protects the skin while providing anti-inflammatory properties that help with rosacea, acne and melasma. suntegrityskincare.com
Goddess Garden Organics Everyday Natural Sunscreen Lotion With antioxidant green tea Kiss My Face_Bareand moisturizing shea butter, this super-emollient product also offers SPF 30 and broad-spectrum protection with actives titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. goddessgarden.com
Kiss My Face Sensitive Side 3 in 1 Sunscreen Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide combine to offer maximal hydrating protection, enhanced with a moisturizer made from safflower seeds. Also look for Antioxidant Defender, with Vitamin C and E, green tea and goji berry extract. SPF 30. kissmyface.com
Juice Beauty SPF 30 Sport Water-resistant sunblock designed for an Erbaviva Sunscreenactive lifestyle, which features organic coconut, aloe and jojoba to keep skin hydrated and zinc oxide to protect. juicebeauty.com
Erbaviva Sunscreen (SPF 30) The infusion of essential oils of chamomile adds a calming essence to a sunscreen that is naturally crafted with zinc oxide, aloe, sunflower, olive and jojoba oils. erbaviva.com

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