AOC Slams the FDA's Harmful Overregulation of Sunscreen

On this one issue, the democratic socialist sounds a lot like a libertarian.


Credit where credit is due: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.) may be a self-described democratic socialist, but when it comes to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) overregulation of sunscreen—a nontrivial issue—she sounds a lot like a libertarian.

In a recent TikTok video, AOC interviewed esthetician Charlotte Palermino about the abysmally limited sunscreen options in the United States.

"U.S. sunscreen regulations are not necessarily making us more safe," explains Palermino. And AOC agrees:

AOC is calling out a very real problem. Sunscreen is regulated like a drug, which means the product is subject to byzantine FDA regulations that have largely thwarted innovation in the category for the last 20 years.

As the economist Alex Tabarrok has pointed out, European and Asian countries enjoy vastly superior options.

"Suncreens in Europe and Asia are better than in the United States because more ingredients are allowed and these create more effective and more pleasing suncreens," he writes.

This is no accident, but rather the deliberate result of regulatory policy. The European Union, for instance, has approved 27 different compounds for use in sunscreen, whereas the FDA has only approved 17.

"The number of approved ingredients matters because not all filters can seamlessly be formulated into sunscreens or other suitable products for skin application," writes the Cato Institute's Gabriella Beaumont-Smith. "Moreover, some of the ingredients approved in the EU and Japan but not the US are more effective and long‐​lasting."

If the FDA won't clear more sunscreen ingredients for use in the U.S., the agency should at the very least allow reciprocity: Foreign sunscreens could be made available with warning labels noting that they were approved by European health officials but not by the FDA. Of course, the best option would be for U.S. regulators to simply get out of the way and acknowledge that these products are obviously safe for human use. Indeed, not approving them is the greater danger, since using sunscreen is one of the best ways to prevent skin cancer.

In her TikTok video, AOC encourages her supporters to confront their members of Congress on this issue. Ideally, she would pursue the argument she's making here to its logical end and endorse very broad regulatory reform. After all, FDA inaction is depriving Americans of much more than just sunscreen: Regulatory hurdles are partly responsible for everything from the baby formula shortage to the high price of insulin.

Nevertheless, it's good that even though AOC was feeling the Bern, she apparently doesn't want to get burned.