Posted on 6.15.11 at 10:11 am. No Comments.
It only took 33 years, but the FDA has released their long awaited new rules for sunscreen labeling. First proposed in 1978, the FDA will require these changes to sunscreen labeling before next summer. For the most part these are positive changes that will help consumers with the confusing task of picking the correct sunscreen.
The biggest change is that sunscreen manufacturers must now prove to the FDA that their products block both UVA and UVB rays. Most sunscreens easily block UVB, often referred to as the “sunburn rays. ” But some do not adequately block UVA. UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin and have been shown to cause both aging and skin cancer.
Sunscreens that fail to protect against both ultraviolet UVA and UVB rays and have as SPF below 15 will now have to carry warning label stating : “This product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging.”
The FDA will now prohibit the marketing terms ”waterproof” and “sweatproof,” which are clearly an exageration. All sunscreens will come off with sweating or water exposure. Instead, sunscreens are permitted to say only whether they are “water resistant” for either 40 minutes or 80 minutes. I tell patients a good application of sunscreen will get them two hours maximum of sun protection if they are sweating or in and out of water.
Products that can show they protect against UVA and UVB and have an SPF of at least 15 will now be labeled “broad spectrum.” Any product that is not broad spectrum will be now have a warning stating the product has not been shown to help prevent skin cancer or early skin aging. Many sunscreens for years have use “broad spectrum” as a marketing term, but with no regulation the consumer was left to guess what that really meant. As a dermatologist it makes it much easier what to tell patients to look for.
So what should you look for? A “broad spectrum” and “water resistant” sunscreen with an SPF 50. But as mentioned in my previous post, the main issue is still the application. Most patients don’t use nearly enough sunscreen and then forget to re-apply.