'Better' sunscreen still banned in the US

Published: Wednesday, May 29 2013 12:43 p.m. MDT

Devon Garrison plays in the pool at the clubhouse of his sub-division in Montgomery, Ala., Tuesday, June 14, 2011. Garrison wears sunscreen with an SPF factor of 100. Federal regulators will require sunscreen manufacturers to test their products' effectiveness against sun rays that pose the greatest risk of skin cancer. Under new rules, manufacturers also will have to follow stricter guidelines when describing how well their products block ultraviolet B rays.

Dave Martin, Associated Press

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It is a long road to get drugs approved by the FDA in the USA. Sunscreen formulas have to travel that same road — even though some popular sunscreens have been in use in pretty much the rest of the world for years, the Wall Street Journal reports.

"Eight sunscreen ingredient applications have been pending before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for years — some for up to a decade — for products available in many overseas countries," Sumanthi Reddy reports for The Wallstreet Journal. "

"What's the big deal about these sunscreens, anyway, besides anecdotal evidence from those who've used it?" says Mary Beth Quirk at The Consumerist. "The ingredients under review by the FDA allow for a longer range of UVA filters, and many dermatologists say they're a great, effective way to block out the bad stuff in the sun's rays."

Meanwhile, while waiting for these miracle sunscreens, Consumer Reports looked at sunscreens currently on the market in the U.S. and found that the SPF numbers did not always indicate the sunscreen's effectiveness. For example, the highest-rated sunscreen from 2012, All Terrain, was the lowest rated this year.

"If you can't find a recommended sunscreen, buy one that claims broad-spectrum protection, is water resistant, and has a claimed SPF of at least 40," Consumer Reports says. "We used to recommend 30, but given the performance of this latest batch, a claim of 40 makes more sense."

My Money Blog says Consumer Reports' top-rated sunscreen this year is "Equate (Walmart) Ultra Protection Lotion SPF 50."

My Money Blog, however, says "The Consumer Reports test results haven't always been consistent over the last few years. CR has noted that their testing on UVA/UVB effectiveness has varied from year-to-year with the exact same product, even though the manufacturers claim the formula hasn't changed."

But even FDA-approved-for-the-USA sunscreen chemicals aren't necessarily to be used indiscriminately. My Money Blog warns, "If you're pregnant, you should check your sunscreen for retinyl palmitate, a common inactive ingredient in sunscreens which has been linked to birth defects and thus should be avoided by pregnant women."

The Environmental Working Group has a website where people can check sunscreens for alleged hazards to health. It also criticizes the FDA standards.

"While nearly every sunscreen on the market meets the new FDA rule for broad-spectrum protection," The Environmental Working Group says in a press release, "that standard is so weak that half of the sunscreens on the American market would not be sold Europe, where the safety and efficacy protocols are more stringent. European sunscreen makers voluntarily comply with European Union recommendations that a product's UVA protection and SPF be coordinated so that the UVA protection is at least one-third as strong as the SPF."

So depending upon your perspective, the FDA is too strict or not strict enough. That must burn them up.

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