New FDA rules on sunscreen labels simplify choosing a sunscreen

The Food & Drug Administration in June announced new proposed rules for sunscreen labels that will make claims clearer to consumers.  The key points are:

  • In order to claim protection against both sunburn and skin cancer and photoaging, sunscreens must have an SPF of 15 and a “pass” test on a broad-spectrum UVA test. Sunscreens satisfying these requirements may be termed “Broad Spectrum SPF”.  Previous label schemes focused on SPF for only UVB protection.
  • Sunscreens that do not satisfy the above requirements will require a warning that protection is only afforded against sunburn but not against skin cancer and photoaging.
  • Sunscreens can be labelled as either 40 minute or 80 minute “water resistant”.  More general and vague terms such as “waterproof” will no longer be permitted, nor will the terms “sunblock” or “sweatproof”.
  • The new rules will not be in effect until the summer of 2012, or 2013 for small manufacturers.
  • Regardless of the labels, remember to put on a generous film of sunscreen and to reapply every two hours, or more often when swimming.
  • Keep in mind that sunscreen is only one element of a healthy sun protection program.  You should avoid the sun entirely between the hours of 10AM and 2PM when the sun is strongest, and in general avoid prolonged exposure.  Wear sun-protective clothing, such as a hat and long sleeves.

More Information on Sunscreens from the FDA

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