The U.S. Food and Drug Administration may soon be switching up how we shop for our SPFs, and frankly, it’s about time. Despite the incredible leaps in technology and science, the U.S. hasn’t approved any new active ingredients in sunscreen (or new FDA sunscreen regulations)since the early ’90s, with many studies questioning how some of these old school ingredients affect the environment and the body. In 2018, Hawaii even went so far as to legally ban the sale of sunscreens containing the ingredients oxybenzone and octinoxate because of the major danger they pose to delicate coral reefs.
Of the 16 currently marked active ingredients in sunscreen, only two—zinc oxide and titanium oxide—are identified by the FDA as safe for human use, while twelve ingredients require more extensive research to prove their safety, and two have just been declared unsafe and will be banned from OTC sunscreen products.
In a news release, the FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., says: “We know much more about the effects of the sun and about sunscreen’s absorption through the skin. The proposal we’ve put forward would improve quality, safety, and efficacy of the sunscreens American use every day.”
Right now, the new regulations are just proposals while the agency evaluates and makes a final ruling by November 2019. But if confirmed, the biggest change to the sunscreen industry would be clarifying the SPF labeling on the packaging, meaning that consumers would have a way better understanding of what they’re purchasing and the key ingredients and what they address within each sunscreen product.
Specifically, the new regulations would raise the maximum SPF from 50+ to 60+ and any sunscreens rated as SPF 15 or higher would need to provide protection against UVA and UVB rays (which you should always be wearing anyway, TBH).
Another change would require the manufacturers to list out the active ingredients on the front of the package so consumers can identify exactly what they’re purchasing, and sunscreens that are more cosmetic than heavy-duty, like towelettes and some sprays, would be integrated into a brand-new category separate from sunscreen.
While the FDA collects more data from research as well as testimonials from dermatologists and chemists, more information will be revealed, and we’ll be sure to share with you as soon as the data is available. In the meantime, keep an eye out for sunscreens that aren’t as harsh on skin or the environment, especially if you’re headed on a tropical vaca with delicate wildlife.