Would you want to buy a sunscreen that warned you to stay out the sun for at least 7 days after applying it?
That’s a decision that many Canadians could soon be facing.
In 2012 the Canadian government’s health agency, proposed new sunscreen rules that would require sunscreens with retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A, to be labeled with a clear, strong warning:
“This product contains retinyl palmitate that may increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun and particularly the possibility of sunburn. Please limit sun exposure while using this product and for a week afterwards”
This label would be required on sunscreens containing more than a tenth of one percent retinyl palmitate, a powerful anti-aging chemical. An FDA-sponsored study has linked this chemical to skin tumors and lesions in laboratory animals treated with the chemical, then exposed to sunlight. As well, products containing vitamin A can irritate the skin and increase photosensitivity, as indicated by Canada’s proposed warning label.
If this law passes, Health Canada’s regulations would be considerably stronger than U.S. rules enforced by the federal Food and Drug Administration. Consumers in both countries confront a similar dilemma. The sunscreen market is confusing. Laws requiring more stringent and accurate labeling and regulations have been pushed aside in favor of self regulation since the 70s!
Regulators have not issued rules that are up to date with the latest science on skin cancer and other disorders caused by excessive sun exposure. Melanoma rates are rising. Many products currently available actually encourage people to spend longer in the sun believing themselves to be adequately protected, and misleading labels and advertisements perpetuate some of the worst myths.
The rules the Canadian government is considering would end some of the worst hype on sunscreen. They would ban SPF values greater than 50+ and wet skin sprays, neither of which do what they claim. Products that offer better protection from the less obvious but subtle long term damage of ultraviolet A rays would be labeled clearly something that has been standard in EU sunscreens for some years.
According to a Health Canada spokesperson, the agency plans to issue final rules “as quickly as possible.”
Because the lucrative Canadian market is a significant part of the g U.S. sunscreen business, a change in Canadian regulations could improve the quality of U.S. sunscreens.
In 2013 U.S. companies have added retinyl palmitate to nearly 25 percent of all beach and sport sunscreens as well as other skin and lip products. EWG (Environmental Working Group) recommends consumers “avoid sunscreen and skin products with retinyl palmitate until the industry can prove it is safe for sun-exposed skin”.
Health Canada has proposed to ban:
- Sunscreens with SPFs greater than 50+ – numerous studies find that sunscreens with SPF values above 50 offer little additional sunburn protection and lead consumer to misuse them.
- “Wet skin” sprays, marketed primarily for use on children. Neutrogena, Coppertone, CVS, Rite Aid and Aveeno, sell these products. Even the wishy-washy FDA has expressed doubts about the safety and effectiveness of sunscreen sprays
- Adoption standard for ultraviolet A filtering
- Permission for sunscreen makers to add Mexoryl SX and Mexoryl XL — two superior sunscreen chemicals found in European products. Better photostable UVA filtering, Sunscreen companies been seeking FDA permission to use these chemicals since 2007.
- A ban on combinations of mineral and chemical filters without a more rigorous drug approval process.
- Disclosure of the specific type of nanomaterials used in mineral sunscreens, a move that could ensure that improper forms of these minerals are not added to products.
Canada’s efforts to improve sunscreen protection are a huge step in the right direction. The FDA has been unable or unwilling to push through U.S. sunscreen rules that were first instigated when the Bee Gees were in the charts!
For these reasons, we switched to the most highly rated natural sunscreens as recommended by EWG as well as wearing UPF rated sun protection clothing which takes all the guess working out of sun protection and saves us time and $
If you want to check out how well your sunscreen measures up check out EWG’s 2013 Guide to Sunscreens which gives safety ratings to more than 1,400 sunscreens, moisturizers, lip products and makeup with SPF claims. Only 25 percent of the beach and sport sunscreens on this year’s market passing marks for sun protection and absence of toxic ingredients. Even fewer daily moisturizers, makeups and lip products with SPF pass the EWG test.