Supergoop is issuing a clarion call to sunscreen marketers to disclose clinical studies validating their SPF claims.
To create a model for disclosure, the brand is providing access to efficacy testing results for its sun-protection products on its web site. It’s making the move after the sun-care segment has come under fire from a Consumer Reports investigation that found nearly half of sunscreens don’t live up to their SPF labeling, and controversy over an Honest Co. mineral sunscreen criticized as ineffective.
“We really hope that this is the start of a big change in the industry to be more transparent, and let families look at the testing up close and decide what is right for them,” said Holly Thaggard, founder and chief executive officer of Supergoop. “In my opinion, there is really no reason not to share if you have done clinical testing and have substantiated your claims.”
Supergoop’s choice to divulge its third-party testing could bring attention to a lack of such testing being performed prior to other brands’ sunscreens hitting store shelves. Thaggard points out the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates sunscreens as over-the-counter drugs, doesn’t evaluate sunscreen efficacy or review third-party analyses on products’ SPF levels, although it does stipulate companies test their sunscreens according to specific procedures meant to corroborate effectiveness.
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“What Consumer Reports revealed is that some of these formulas on the market actually haven’t participated in testing to begin with. Therein lies the problem. What’s to keep a company from not going to the expense of testing its formula when nobody is approving or checking? They can go to market anyway,” she said. “We have to be thinking about people’s safety. If we can inspire sunscreen companies to share their clinicals, then perhaps we would eliminate that being a problem, and consumers would purchase with an understanding they [sunscreens] have gone through the process.”
In addition to disclosure of sunscreen-testing results, Thaggard supports stricter sunscreen regulation by the FDA. She highlighted the thorough vetting QVC mandates for the sunscreens it sells as a framework that could be followed on a national level.
“For QVC, we are required to submit testing from patch testing to critical wavelength testing to water-resistance testing. It substantiates the claims and ensures the well-being of the people that will go on to purchase our products on QVC,” said Thaggard. “In a perfect world, I think we would like to see a process in place like that with the FDA that would discover products on the market that fall short.”
Without firmer FDA regulations, skepticism could mount about the available sunscreens as outside investigations and consumers expose misleading claims and faulty formulas. Thaggard suggested testing disclosures could be a first step toward combatting that skepticism, and helping build trust between sunscreen brands and consumers. On Supergoop’s web site, there is extensive documentation of tests conducted by third-party laboratories including AMA Laboratories and Suncare Research Laboratories, and a guide that aids consumers in interpreting the tests.
“We don’t want people to feel what they are applying isn’t what it’s marketing to be,” she said. “Right now, if you buy an SPF 50, you really have no proof that the sunscreen went through the testing process to get that SPF 50. If you use our web site, you will see exactly what it took to get that SPF 50. It allows consumers to back up what they are putting on their skin.”