Sunscreen Label Changes

Merely Me Health Guide
  • We have been told for years to use sunscreen as a protective measure against developing sun damage including sunburn and skin cancer.  But do all sunscreen products give you the same protection? And are the labels on sunscreen truthful? Are there discrepancies between the manufacturer label and what the sunscreen product can honestly deliver? Recently the Federal Trade Administration (FDA) has investigated the claims of sunscreen products and is issuing new rules and regulations to promote more truthful advertising. The goal is to protect consumers in making it easier to understand what sunscreen products can and cannot do. We are going to give you the scoop on what you can expect to see with changes to sunscreen labels and how it will affect you.

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    What are the new FDA regulations on sunscreen products?


    • Any sunscreen which bears the label of “broad spectrum” must protect against both UVB and UVA radiation. Currently, SPF labels do not always address the risks of UVA light.


    • Sunscreen labels will not be able to use the word “waterproof” as experts say there is no such thing as waterproof sunscreen. All sunscreen is capable of washing off in water or with sweat. The term “water resistant” will replace the inaccurate “waterproof” descriptor. The manufacturer can use the “water resistant” label as long as they specify how long you can remain in water before the sunscreen wears off.


    • The term “sunblock” will also be banned as experts say it is misleading and confusing to consumers. No product will completely block the rays of the sun.


    • Sunscreen products which meet the broad spectrum (protecting against UVB and UVA light) guidelines and have an SPF value of 15 or higher may protect not only against sunburn but also against premature aging and skin cancer. This is true if the user follows the directions on the sunscreen product and also uses other sun prevention measures such as wearing protective clothing and limiting their amount of sun exposure. Sunscreens that do not meet the broad spectrum guidelines and are labeled with SPF values only, can only say that they protect against sunburn.


    Are there any other changes being proposed by the FDA?


    The FDA would also like to ban labels which bear an SPF value of over 50.  Experts say that there is no scientific data to prove that there is any additional protection past an SPF of 50. The FDA also wants to research whether spray sunscreens are less effective than oils or creams.


    When will these regulations take effect?


    The FDA website promises that you will see these changes in sunscreen labels by the summer of 2012.


    What can consumers do to stay safe until these label changes take place?


    • Choose a sunscreen which offers both UVB and UVA protection. Go for an SPF of at least 30.


    • Apply your sunscreen at least thirty minutes before sun exposure so that it has a chance to sink into your skin.


    • Despite whether your sunscreen label says that it is water proof or water resistant, you still need to reapply it every two hours.


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    • Try to stay out of the sun during the peak hours of 10 am to 4 pm.


    • Wear a wide brimmed hat and don’t forget your sunglasses. Wraparound sunglasses which block UV-light offer the most protection.


    • Wear protective clothing made to shield your skin from UV-rays. One sun protection clothing company recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation is Coolibar.

    • Read more about Summer Sun Safety from Dr. Sundaram, skin care expert and dermatologist.


    To read the full report on the new FDA changes to sunscreen labels please refer to the questions and answers page of the official U.S. Food and Drug Administration website.

Published On: June 20, 2011