Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Thinks You Deserve Better Sunscreen

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“I was in South Korea earlier this year and it is so clear how far advanced the rest of the world is on sunscreen, and we deserve better in the US. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the sunscreen you just bought at Target isn’t safe and you should fund research so that we can all enjoy the filters that develop out of the scientific process.”
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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez thinks we all deserve better sunscreen. In a new video posted to Instagram, Ocasio-Cortez teamed up with Dieux Skincare founder and licensed esthetician Charlotte Palermino to explain why the United States is falling short on the SPF front — and what we can do about it. “US sunscreens are far behind the rest of the world,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “I was in South Korea earlier this year and it is so clear how far advanced the rest of the world is on sunscreen, and we deserve better in the US.”

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the sunscreen you just bought at Target isn’t safe; it’s more about the way sunscreen is regulated in the US versus how that is done overseas. The United States, namely the FDA, regulates sunscreen as a drug, not a cosmetic product. In part, this is a good thing, because these regulations mean more testing and clinical studies are required. But this also adds a ton of regulations to the process, not to mention time and money. “Sometimes that can add a lot of bureaucratic and cost that prevents us from getting any sunscreen filters at all,” said Ocasio-Cortez. 

According to both Ocasio-Cortez and Palermino, the US sunscreen filter hasn’t been updated since 1999. Think of how much beauty has changed since then! Ocasio-Cortez also cited a 2017 study that found only half of US sunscreens measured up to European protection standards.

This is something we’ve been talking about at Allure for a long time. Did you catch our cameo in the video? At one point, a headline from a 2017 story by Sable Yong about Korean sunscreen technology pops up. “It’s not that South Korea has something specifically unique that allows them to create better sunscreens,” cosmetic chemist Stephen Ko told Yong at the time. “They just have access to more sunscreen ingredients to work with.” 

Because of tighter regulations in the US, it can be difficult to get new ingredients approved. Explained Ko in Yong’s story, “Sunscreen chemicals, on the other hand, do need to go through the formal drug approval process, and because of this there hasn’t been a new one approved for use in sunscreens in the US since 1999.” 

That doesn’t mean the FDA isn’t keeping an eye on the sunscreen space; it updated some regulations in 2011 and announced it was reevaluating some ingredients in 2019. It’s just that the approval process is a lot faster in other countries, leaving the US in the dust, formula-wise.

To get involved, Ocasio-Cortez urges you to contact your member of Congress, especially if they sit on the Energy and Commerce Committee. Congress doesn’t have a ton of awareness about this issue, she said, so it’s imperative that you share your thoughts and take action if you want to see a change on the sunscreen shelf. She also provided a few talking points for what to say when you call or email: You should ask them to “break through some of the regulatory barriers at the FDA” and you should “fund research so that we can all enjoy the filters that develop out of the scientific process.” 

Find your Congressperson here and tell them it’s high time the United States caught up on the sunscreen game.

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