What are UV/Sunscreen filters and why are they important?

Healthcare professionals and regulatory authorities in the US and around the world support the use of sunscreens and all emphasize that using sunscreen is a critical part of a safe sun regimen. Most importantly, they acknowledge the research that shows sunscreens aide in decreasing the risk of developing skin cancers and early skin aging.

Sunscreen products contain UV filter ingredients that prevent the ultraviolet (UV) rays from damaging your skin. UVA rays have a longer wavelength and penetrate deep into the skin. UVB rays are shorter and tend to be more intense in summer, in locations near the equator and at higher elevations. UVA rays are associated with causing signs of early skin aging and UVB rays are often called "burning rays" causing sunburns. Although both UVA and UVB rays damage your skin in different ways, cumulative exposure of both UVA and UVB rays can contribute to skin cancer.

The FDA has approved 16 UV filters for use in the United States (see table below). Each filter has unique properties. Some UV filters protect against UVA, others protect against UVB rays, and a few provide some protection from both. Because it is important to protect against both UVA and UVB, sunscreen products need to contain the right combination of sun filter ingredients to provide comprehensive protection.

Neutrogena® has extensive experience using a range of sunscreen filter ingredients to formulate safe and effective broad spectrum sunscreens that meet consumer needs.

Here is a list of the 16 FDA approved filters for the US

Avobenzone Aminobenzoic Acid Dioxybenzone
Meradimate Cinoxate Oxybenzone
Ensulizole Sulisobenzone
Homosalate Titanium Dioxide
Octocrylene Zinc Oxide
Padimate O
Trolamine Salicylate

Creating Superior Sunscreen Formulas

Our scientists consider each ingredient's properties when formulating sunscreen products. For broad spectrum formulas, they select a combination of sunscreen filters to provide comprehensive protection that doesn't break down against sunlight, meaning they are photostable. All of Neutrogena's sunscreen formulas are broad spectrum, providing protection against both UVA and UVB rays, which contribute to skin cancer and cause damage to the skin.

All ingredients in our sunscreens are well researched, and are supported by external safety experts and regulatory agencies such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel (CIR), and the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety.

Does Neutrogena® have a position on specific sunscreen ingredients?

With decades of research by scientific review boards, independent researchers, and US and global regulatory authorities, we confidently create products that aide in protecting against harmful UV rays.

Neutrogena® uses several technologies, such as HELIOPLEX® and PURESCREEN® to achieve superior protection against the sun. We also use sunscreen ingredients like avobenzone, homosalate, octilsalate, oxybenzone, and octinoxate in accordance with US regulatory requirements.

The safety profile of the ingredients we use is comprehensive and strong in supporting their safe use, and supported by the Food and Drug Administration and other safety experts.

  • Oxybenzone has been widely used in sunscreen products for decades and has been proven safe and effective and is approved by the FDA as an over-the-counter (OTC) sunscreen ingredient, and is also approved by for use as a UV filter in most countries around the world.
  • The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) has released a statement on the safety of Oxybenzone
    • Oxybenzone provides effective broad-spectrum protection. Oxybenzone is one of the few FDA-approved ingredients that provides effective broad-spectrum protection from UV radiation, and has been approved for use since 1978. "Available peer-reviewed scientific literature and regulatory assessments from national and international bodies do not support a link between oxybenzone in sunscreen and hormonal alterations, or other significant health issues in humans," stated Dr. Siegel. "The FDA has approved oxybenzone in sunscreen for use on children older than six months, and dermatologists continue to encourage protecting children by playing in the shade, wearing protective clothing and applying broad-spectrum sunscreen." (https://www.aad.org/media/news-releases/sunscreen-remains-a-safe-effective-form-of-sun-protection)
Retinyl Palmitate
  • Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) has been used safely in many personal care products for more than 30 years to enhance the appearance of dry or damaged skin. This same ingredient can be found in animal fats, in fish liver oil, and in plants, foods and vitamin supplements. Additionally, there is a large body of scientific evidence that retinoid compounds like retinyl palmitate may actually work to reduce skin cancers. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel has reviewed the data on retinyl palmitate and concluded that it is safe as a cosmetic ingredient.
  • The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) has released a statement on the safety of Retinyl Palmitate (https://www.aad.org/media/news-releases/sunscreen-remains-a-safe-effective-form-of-sun-protection)
    • Retinyl palmitate, is a form of vitamin A (retinol), but is not an active drug ingredient in sunscreen. When used in sunscreen, retinyl palmitate serves cosmetic purposes as an antioxidant to improve product performance against the aging effects of UV exposure, or to enhance product aesthetic qualities. Despite recent concerns from in vitro (test tube) studies and one unpublished report using mice, "topical and oral retinoids are widely prescribed to treat a number of skin diseases, such as acne and psoriasis, and there is no published evidence to suggest either increase the risk of skin cancer in these patients," said Dr. Siegel. "In fact, oral retinoids are used to prevent skin cancers in high-risk patients such as those who have undergone organ transplantation." Dr. Siegel also added that "unlike more potent prescription forms of vitamin A, there is no evidence to suggest that use of sunscreen with retinyl palmitate poses comparable risks.")
Octilsalate, Oxybenzone, Octinoxate

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Program updated their safety opinion with the conclusion that within normal use levels, octilsalate, oxybenzone and octinoxate are not estrogenic or androgenic.1, 2

Mineral Sunscreens (Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide)

We also use mineral sunscreens, like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Mineral (sometimes called Physical) sunscreens absorb, reflect and scatter UV rays before they have a chance to touch your skin. Because these minerals do not penetrate the skin, they do not cause irritation or sensitization. Many dermatologists recommend mineral sunscreens for consumers with sensitive skin. Neutrogena® mineral sunscreen formulas can be found under PURESCREEN® technology.

Does Neutrogena® have a position on high SPF?

SPF is a measurement of how well a sunscreen protects your skin from sunburn. Applying a sunscreen with an SPF of 30, for example, means that it will take 30 times longer for your skin to begin to burn than it would without sunscreen. A higher SPF can provide greater UV protection.

Our scientists believe that SPF values higher than 50 provide the highest level of sun protection for everyone, as studies show people routinely under apply sunscreens, with only 25-50% of people using the recommended amount. Under application can lead to SPF levels much lower than the label indicates. A higher broad spectrum sunscreen SPF can provide a margin of safety in case of under-application.

Remember, the recommended amount of sunscreen varies by form. For lotions, use 1 ounce (size of a golf ball) to cover an average, adult body. For sprays, apply evenly until the product is "glistening" on the skin (2 to 4 seconds of continuous spraying per limb, and 5-8 seconds on torso). For the sticks, apply 3-4 passes back and forth per area. We recommend applying at least 15 minutes before going out into the sun. Reapply often, especially after swimming, sweating or using a towel.

Additionally, we believe that higher SPFs lead to protection over time. Exposure to the sun's harmful UV rays can add up all year long - not just in the summer! This means sun damage is accumulating over time. A broad spectrum sunscreen with high SPF will better protect your skin over time from accumulated damage.

When should I start applying sunscreen to my baby?

The FDA guidelines suggest to wait until your infant is 6 months or older before applying sunscreen.3 For babies younger than 6 months old, we recommend keeping them out of the sun, especially between the hours of 10am and 2pm when the UV rays are most intense. If you do need to use sunscreen prior to 6 months, please consult your pediatrician.

What are the best tips for keeping my baby safe in the sun?

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests dressing infants in lightweight long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and brimmed hats that shade the neck to prevent sunburn.4 We also suggest clothing or swimsuits with UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor).

For babies 6 months and older, choose a Broad Spectrum mineral sunscreen for babies that's gentle and fragrance-free. Look for the ingredients Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide to indicate if a sunscreen is a mineral based UV filter. Mineral sunscreens are best for sensitive or delicate skin.

Can I use a spray sunscreen on my kids?

Dermatologist say the best sunscreen is the one you will actually use and sprays are a convenient form of sun protection to use with kids. Apply spray sunscreen outside or in a well ventilated area and do not spray directly on your child's face. If you need to use spray sunscreen to the face, spray an adequate amount into the hands and then apply to the face.

We recommend that when applying spray sunscreens you spray continuously and liberally. To know if you are applying enough, we recommend these guidelines: apply it slowly and evenly until the product is "glistening" on the skin. This should take 2 to 4 seconds of continuous spraying per limb, and 5 to 8 seconds for the torso and back. We recommend rubbing in the product and applying 15-30 minutes before sun exposure. Always reapply after swimming or toweling off.

My child has sensitive skin, what is the best type of product to use?

The National Eczema Association recommends mineral sunscreens for people with sensitive or eczema prone skin. They have awarded Neutrogena® the Seal of Acceptance for the PURESCREEN® mineral sunscreen products as they have been clinically tested to be gentle on delicate or sensitive skin. Our Pure & Free Baby sunscreens are fragrance free, hypoallergenic and won't run into eyes and sting.

How does Neutrogena® commit to sunscreen safety?

We are committed to innovation in sunscreen formulation in our journey to raise awareness about the danger of UV exposure and its connection to rising levels of skin cancer diagnosis around the world.

Our scientists work hard to provide the best sun protection in a wide range of formats, textures and formulations for specific skin conditions (i.e. sensitive skin or acne-prone skin) because we know the best sunscreen is the one you will use regularly- and we want to provide consumers with peace of mind in their choice of sunscreens.

At the Neutrogena®, nothing matters more to us than your peace of mind. We want you to feel comfortable and confident that every product you bring into your home and use with your family is safe, effective and of the highest quality. That is why our safety process has been one of the most thorough and rigorous product testing processes in our industry. We ensure the safety and quality of every single product we make. It's also why we continually re-evaluate ingredients to be responsive to the latest scientific developments and to your feedback. All ingredients go through our five-level safety assurance process, and all formulas are tested for SPF protection following the FDA guidelines.

The five-level safety assurance covers:

  1. Raw Material Sourcing
  2. Toxicology Assessment
  3. Clinical Evaluation
  4. In-Use Testing
  5. Continual Evaluation

Our Five Level Safety Assurance Process

Visit the J&J Safety & Care Commitment site for more details:

1 http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/testing/status/agents/ts-m20247.html
2 http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=352.50
3 http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm309136.htm
4 https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/news-features-and-safety-tips/Pages/Sun-and-Water-Safety-Tips.aspx?nfstatus=401&nftoken=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000&nfstatusdescription=ERROR:+No+local+token