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May 7, 2019Sunscreen and Sun Protection

Sunscreen Safety: What the FDA Proposal on Sunscreen Means

In this video, I want to focus on a topic you’ll be hearing a LOT more about over the next few months: the new FDA proposal on sunscreen. This is a big deal, because it’s created a lot of confusion and even some pretty heated debate among dermatologists, companies that manufacture sunscreen and the government! So I wanted to break it down for you here, and give you what I consider the most important take away points.

There were 16 sunscreen ingredients included in the proposed ruling, and the FDA broke them down into 3 categories: GRASE, not GRASE and we don’t know if these are safe yet or not.

Category 1 included the 2 physical blockers available on the market in the US, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Both these ingredients were deemed SAFE by the FDA.

Category 2 included 2 ingredients the FDA clearly deemed not safe: PABA and Trolamine salicylate. Good news is, these ingredients aren’t in most sunscreens on the market today, so you don’t really have to worry about those.

Now Category 3 is causing a large part of the controversy.  The FDA put the remaining 12 ingredients into category 3, and these ingredients all fall under the category of chemical sunscreen ingredients. The FDA is saying these 12 chemical ingredients have insufficient data – they’re saying to the sunscreen companies and to dermatologists—PROVE to us that these ingredients are safe.  You may recognize some of these ingredients including avobenzone, oxybenzone, octinoxate and octisalate. So right now these 12 chemical ingredients are under intense scrutiny and the jury is out regarding whether the FDA will consider these 12 chemicals safe to use- and they’ll make their official decision this coming November.

Aside from dividing sunscreen ingredients into those 3 categories, the FDA also proposed a cap of SPF at 60+, so gone might be the days of seeing SPF 100 on your tube!  As you can imagine, sunscreen companies that make SPFs over 60 and many dermatologists who believe higher SPFs are better, are spending these next few months trying to convince the FDA to rethink that cap.

I know this is a very confusing time, and the answers are not black and white right now.  But I promise to dive into all the details regarding sun safety with you over the next few months.  So keep checking in and post any q’s or concerns you may have on my social media channels @drwhitneybowe.  I will do my best to keep you informed so you can make the best decisions for you and your family this summer.

Dr. Whitney