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New FDA Rules for Sunscreen Products Shines Spotlight on Skin Health

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

We are all educated about the harmful effects of prolonged sun exposure on our skin and the delicate skin of our children. Gone are the days of oiling up and laying out to soak up the sun. Skin cancer is real and deadly.

So we've become accustomed to wearing hats and sunglasses and slathering on the sunscreen, especially on the little ones. Just when you thought you and your kids were covered, the FDA is making changes to how sunscreens are marketed in the United States as part of the Agency's ongoing efforts to ensure that sunscreens meet modern-day standards for safety and effectiveness and to help consumers have the information they need so they can choose the right sun protection for themselves and their families.

The FDA is now requiring sunscreens to indicate whether they protect against UVB and UVA rays. If you see "Broad Spectrum SPF" on the label, that means the product has cleared the agency's bar for protecting against both types of ultraviolet radiation. And the SPF value will indicate the degree of that protection.

Only broad spectrum-designated sunscreens with SPF values of 15 and higher can claim to reduce the risk of skin cancer and premature aging (if used as directed and along with other protection measures). Sunscreens that don't carry the broad spectrum label or that do, but have an SPF of between 2 and 14, can claim only that they help prevent sunburn, the FDA says. SPF levels will be capped at 50 since the agency says there's not enough data that higher SPF levels provide significantly more protection.

In addition, sunscreens will no longer be labeled as waterproof or sweatproof, nor can they be called sunblocks. "These claims overstate their effectiveness," the FDA says. Sunscreens labeled as water-resistant are permitted, but the product label has to indicate whether it will be effective for 40 minutes or 80 minutes while swimming or sweating.

The final rule will take effect by the summer of 2012, but consumers may begin to see changes to sunscreen labels before the effective date. 

The takeaways: You might be buying a false sense of security with some sunscreens. Read the label. Check expiration dates. Reapply sunscreen every couple of hours and immediately after swimming or showering. Protect the skin you're in!

photo by HB Art on Flickr


Maureensk said...

Yay! It is so different from when I was growing up in San Diego. I was teased for being so pale and spent entire summers sunbathing every day. I also got several blistering sunburns as a child. My skin shows it all now. I've already has pre-cancer lesions and my freckles have become age spots. At the same time, it seems like some people have gone the other extreme - to the point that there have been kids, of well-intentioned parents, who have gotten rickets from lack of vitamin D. Still, with our fair skin and family history of skin cancer, I do try to be careful. I sometimes get lulled into a false sense of security in the cloudy Northwest and forget to use sunscreen as much as I should.

keyalus said...

I read about the new regulations a few weeks ago and was seriously enlightened. I was always under the impression that if 40 SPF was good then 100 SPF was better (and worth paying $3 more). I also appreciate the definition of the sweatproof thing. I do 3-4 hour long runs outdoors and sweat profusely. If you tell me something is sweatproof, I thought I didn't have to reapply. I'm glad they are clarifying this information.

Krissy said...

Thank you so much for this information!

Jen (emsun.org) said...

Good information! Thanks for sharing. :)

TheVegan said...

Good to know,though my problem is never remembering to wear sunscreen to begin with.:/ Just doing normal day to day activities, it's harder to remember how much sun exposure you're still getting!

Jennifer Oldaker said...

Thanks for all the info.! I also have a hard time remembering to actually BRING sunscreen or to re-apply after being out in the sun for too long!

Laura said...

This is all great information! I wondered why I couldn't find "waterproof" sunscreen anymore...

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