Some Think It's High Time to Improve US Sunscreen

AOC is among those trying to nudge Congress and the FDA
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 19, 2023 5:31 AM CDT
Push Is On to Improve Sunscreen in the US
   (Getty / Creative-Family)

Nearly a decade ago, Congress got interested in improving the quality of sunscreen in the US, which is generally considered sub-par when compared to products offered elsewhere in the world. The result in 2023: Not much has happened. Now the interest is percolating again, as evidenced in an Instagram video posted last week by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, reports the New York Times. In it, she implores people to ask their congressmen and congresswoman to get on the case. The story and another at Insider lay out the broad strokes: Sunscreen is regulated in the US by the FDA as a drug, while other nations consider it to be a cosmetic and thus subject to less stringent rules.

And while nobody objects to the principle of tough safety rules, the upshot is that the FDA has not improved new ingredients for sunscreens in more than 20 years. The US currently allows 14 sunscreen filters, compared to more than 30 in the European Union, per the Times. Asian products also are seen as superior. As a result, "skin-care influencers on TikTok and Instagram are in a near-constant state of frenzy over exciting new products and innovations that are nowhere to be found on American shelves," per the Times. But it's not just influencers who are worried. Dermatologist Ellen Gendler tells Insider that US products are "very good" at protecting people from UVB rays, but not so good at blocking potentially more dangerous UVA rays.

Like AOC, she uses foreign products, which not only appear to offer greater protection, they go on less obtrusively than the gooey white stuff so common in American sunscreens. "The technology is very sophisticated," says AOC. "You don't feel like you have a layer of sunscreen on, and it kind of just feels like you're putting on a moisturizer in that sense, which makes it easier to use." The issue has been in play for a while. Amanda Mull assessed all this in 2022 for the Atlantic, concluding that consumers in Europe and Asia "have better sunscreen than we do. We should have it too." (An outlier's view is that we overuse sunscreen.)

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