Two U.S. lawmakers who are on opposite sides of the aisle and typically disagree on just about everything, found common ground over sunscreen — the key to preventing skin cancer and halting skin aging.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, spoke out against federal regulation of sunscreen in a video posted on social media last week.

“U.S. sunscreens are far behind the rest of the world. I was in South Korea earlier this year and it is so clear how far advanced the world is on sunscreen,” Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat, said in the clip.

The Food and Drug Administration regulates sunscreen as an over-the-counter drug, which means ingredients in the tube need to adhere to strict standards of testing and scientific trials. The last time the FDA approved an ingredient was nearly two decades ago — and there hasn’t been much progress since.

Ocasio-Cortez was joined by Charlotte Palermino, an esthetician and the founder of Dieux, a luxury skin care company, who said American sunscreen formulas are from “the dark ages.”

Many on social media were surprised to see Ocasio-Cortez take a stance for limiting government regulation, a position typically taken by Republicans.

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah chimed in and thanked his colleague for raising the issue.

“FDA seems to stretch the definition of the word ‘drug’ beyond its actual meaning” Lee, a Republican, said.

“If this is an agency choice, it should be scrutinized and adjusted where needed. If the underlying statute compels this posture, Congress should consider updating the law to better reflect what should and should not be evaluated as a drug,” Lee added.

On Monday, he broadened his criticism.

“FDA’s handling of countless products — including (but not limited to) items as far-ranging as baby formula, sunscreen, health monitoring devices, and treatments for diabetes — has a tendency to benefit large, established market incumbents, while harming smaller, upstart innovators,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

In the European Union, where sunscreen is regulated as a cosmetic, 34 UV filters have been approved for use compared to 16 in the U.S., according to the Environmental Working Group, which specializes in product research.

“The number of approved ingredients matters because not all filters can seamlessly be formulated into sunscreens or other suitable products for skin application,” wrote Gabriella Beaumont-Smith, a policy analyst at the CATO Institute. “Moreover, some of the ingredients approved in the (European Union) and Japan but not the U.S. are more effective and long‐​lasting.”

But the lack of approved ingredients doesn’t imply that FDA’s process is more stringent. A 2017 study found that out of a range of American sunblock products, a majority met the standard set by the FDA but only 55% passed the European Union standard.

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This has left consumers, dermatologists and manufacturers at a loss. As Dr. Steven Wang, the director of dermatologic surgery and dermatology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New Jersey, said, “We are frustrated by the slow pace. ... Some of these ingredients are being widely used in Europe and have much better UVA (ultraviolet A) protection than what we have here.”

Even though President Barack Obama signed the Sunscreen Innovation Act in 2014, giving the FDA five years to unclog the decade-long backlog of 16 unapproved ingredients, the FDA only marked two elements — titanium dioxide and zinc oxide — as safe while the rest were put under review but allowed to be sold as “Marketed Unapproved Drugs.” 

The other unvetted filters can be combined to make sunscreens less irritating, goopy and greasy, all while offering more protection against UVA radiation, said esthetician Palermino.

Still, new ingredients and filters are visibly missing from the American market. “We want to make sure things are safe,” Ocasio-Cortez said, but added that the FDA’s slow approval process leaves U.S. consumers without innovative products.

She urged Americans to ask members of Congress, especially those sitting on the Energy and Commerce Committee, to break down regulatory barriers at the FDA and fund public research.

“I love Korean sunscreens but I want to buy them in the U.S. Why do we need to import them from all over the place?”

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