Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with more than 2 million new cases diagnosed each year—many of which could have been prevented by proper protection from the sun.
The two main types of harmful rays are:
UV-B – is primarily responsible for causing sunburn
UV-A – penetrate the skin more deeply, and are also known to play a major role in skin wrinkling and skin cancer.
Ideally, we should protect the skin against both types of UV radiation. Here are a list of chemicals that are either approved by the FDA or awaiting approval that can protect against both types of rays.
Approved in the United States
- Chemical filters (UV-A protection): avobenzone, dioxybenzone, meradimate, oxybenzone, sulisobenzone.
- Chemical filters (UV-B protection): aminobenzoic acid, cinoxate, ensulizole, homosalate, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, padimate O, trolomine salicylate.
- Physical filters (broad spectrum): titanium dioxide, zinc oxide.
The FDA has not expanded their list of approved active sunscreen ingredients since 1999 because sunscreen is considered a medication and must meet standards for safety and therapeutic effect. Therefore, there is a long list of sunscreen ingredients that are awaiting approval.
Awaiting FDA Approval
- Amiloxate: Applied for approval in 2002. UV-B filter. Currently used in Asia and Europe.
- Bemotrizinol (Tinosorb S): Applied for approval in 2005. The most effective broad-spectrum chemical filter on the market internationally. Currently used in Australia and Europe.
- Bisoctrizole (Tinosorb M): Applied for approval in 2005. Broad-spectrum hybrid filter that can both absorb and reflect UV, with minimal skin penetration. Currently used in Australia and Europe.
- Drometrizole triziloxane (Mexoryl XL): Applied for approval in 2009. Broad-spectrum chemical filter.
- Ecamsule (Mexoryl SX): Applied for approval in 2007. Broad-spectrum chemical filter. Used internationally since 1991.
- Enzacamene: Applied for approval in 2002. UV-B filter. Currently used in Canada and Europe as a sunscreen at 4% concentration, and in lip balm, lipstick, and moisturizer.
- Iscotrizinol: Applied for approval in 2005. UV-B filter with a small amount of UV-A protection. Currently used in Asia and Europe.
- Octyl triazone: Applied for approval in 2002. UV-B filter with extremely high protection and good water resistance. Currently used in Aisa and Europe
Where Are We Now?
Currently, there is a public push for the FDA to review at least some of its background applications for new sunscreen ingredients. This is known as the Sunscreen Innovation Bill (S.2141 and H.R. 4250). If passed, this bill will make two primary changes to the approval process:
1. It would institute an eight-month deadline for the FDA to approve or deny an application.
2. It would no longer require the FDA to issue a new regulation for the use of a newly approved sunscreen ingredient.
These changes would certainly go a long way toward encouraging innovation in this important area of skin care and protection. In the meantime, when it comes to new sunscreen ingredients, the wait continues.