JAMA has published a study conducted by researchers at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) purportedly finding that sunscreen ingredients are absorbed into the bloodstream when the product is used as directed. The study authors argue that the active ingredients of sunscreen—avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene and ecamsule—should undergo a nonclinical toxicology assessment. “The fact that an ingredient is absorbed through the skin and into the body does not mean the ingredient is unsafe,” CDER Director Janet Woodcock and researcher Theresa Michele wrote in an FDA Perspectives column. “Rather, this finding calls for further testing to determine the safety of that ingredient for repeated use. Such testing is part of the standard pre-market safety evaluation of most chronically administered drugs with appreciable systemic absorption.” CDER and the researchers continue to recommend that “the public should continue to use sunscreen with other sun protective measures.”
The study received some criticism, including that it was not conducted outdoors “where the UV radiation would likely break down some of the active ingredients,” according to the chief executive of Cancer Council Australia. Another critic noted that the study protocol included the use of sunscreen four times daily and argued that consumers are unlikely to apply sunscreen with that level of frequency.