UV Filter Ingredients

What Is It?

UV Filters are ingredients that absorb or reflect the UV rays that are part of sun light.

Why is it used in cosmetics and personal care products?

UV Filters are used to absorb or reflect the UV rays that are contained in sun light or in artificial light. UV Filters can be used to protect the skin from the harmful effects of UV light (skin cancer and photo damage and wrinkling). UV Filters can also be used to protect products and their ingredients as well as packaging. UV Filters are sometimes used to protect hair color, especially for hair that has been dyed.

Scientific Facts:

The sun bathes the earth in light, including UV rays. The UV portion of the spectrum is short, energetic wavelengths of light. The UV light that reaches earth falls in the ultraviolet A (UVA) range, having wavelengths of 320 to 400 nanometers (nm) and the ultraviolet B (UVB) range, having wavelengths of 280 to 320 nanometers (nm. UV Filters prevent UV light from reaching the skin by absorbing it or by scattering it. UV absorbing ingredients absorb the incoming radiation and then release it again as heat or transforming it into another wavelength of light. UV scattering ingredients simply reflect the incoming light in different directions. UV radiation, because it has relatively high energy, is damaging to skin as well as products and product containers. There are a large number of chemicals used to block ultraviolet light, either to protect the user’s skin, or to protect a product or it’s ingredients from being damaged (colors fading, scents decomposing, etc.) Some are molecules that absorb the UV light, such as cinoxate or octocrylene, while others are opaque powders used in creams, such as zinc oxide, or titanium oxide.

Safety Information:

The UV Filters used as active ingredients in over-the-counter Sunscreen drug products in the United States are approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These ingredients must be shown to be safe and effective before they can be used. In addition, the UV Filters that are used as sunscreen active ingredients can only be used as allowed by FDA in the applicable regulations.

You can find out more about the UV Filters allowed by FDA for use in topical sunscreens at the following link: http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?CF…

In Europe, the UV Filters that are used as active ingredients in sunscreen products are assessed and pproved by the European Commission and listed in Annex VII of the Cosmetics Directive. As in the United States, these ingredients must be shown to be safe and effective before they can be used.

European Cosmetics Regulation  

UV Filter ingredients that are used to protect products and packaging are often the same as those used for the formulation of sunscreen drug products. The safety of other UV Filters has been assessed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR). The CIR is an independent program sponsored by the cosmetic and personal care industry. The CIR has considered the safety of many of the UV Filters that are used in cosmetics and personal care products. In considering the safety of UV Filters, the CIR Expert Panel considers all of the scientific data that is available, including data that is published in the peer-reviewed literature as well as information provided from other sources, and determines whether or not this information can allow a safety assessment. If additional information is necessary, the CIR will issue a public announcement identifying the additional information that is needed to complete their safety assessment. When all of the information is available, the CIR Expert Panel will then carefully review the data and issue a conclusion to the public. The conclusion can say that the ingredient is

(1) safe as used,

(2) safe with limitations on usage,

(3) unsafe and

(4) insufficient information to determine safety.

The CIR conclusions provide important guidance for safe formulation of cosmetics and personal care products. 

You can find out about specific UV Filter ingredients by using the ingredient search feature of this website.


The following information may be useful if you want to find out more about UV Filter Ingredients:

(1) How Does Sunscreen Work?

(2) FDA Rulemaking History for Sunscreen Drug Products                                        

(3) Visible and Ultraviolet Spectroscopy

(4) Ultraviolet Light