Non-governmental activist organization The Environmental Working Group (EWG) made headlines again this week when it called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate sunscreens containing anti-inflammatories, antioxidants and other ingredients. It alleged these ingredients “mask” the symptoms of skin reddening and sunburn, exposing consumers to unnecessary risk and inflating SPF values.
The group maintains that sunscreens are a valuable tool for the public to protect itself. However, in a report fromThe Hill, the EWG remarked the current FDA rules need to be updated to keep up with new formulas and marketing trends. It stated that testing methods "do 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 WWD wrote that an FDA spokesperson claimed, "When performed according to current regulatory requirements, the FDA’s established SPF test method demonstrates a sunscreen’s effectiveness in helping prevent sunburn.”
Furthermore, the Personal Care Products Council dismissed the arguments made by the EWG, pointing to the FDA’s ruling in 2011 and noting that the ingredients are often used for other purposes in sunscreens. To paraphrase Beth Lange, chief scientist for the PCPC, in the report, damage to sunscreen-protected skin has been shown to correlate directly to UV exposure through the sunscreen, regardless of topical anti-inflammatory ingredients.
So it seems that once again, no good intention goes unpunished. As cosmetic chemists know, antioxidants are added to not just help stabilize sunscreens in the package, but to help skin defend itself from the ROS generated by UV exposure, as well as other benefits. And anti-inflammatory ingredients don't just soothe irritated skin, they protect it from premature aging, damage or worse.
Be sure to brush up your marketing team's facts and verbal artillery on these ingredients. We've got an all-too-familiar, misinformed nemesis to face.