Current Sunscreen Guidelines

The FDA Has Your Back

Sunscreen Guidelines to Help You Stay Healthy

By Cynda Zurfluh

For the past thirty years, sunscreen claims have been just that:  claims. The products claim to be waterproof, sweatproof, and use the term sun ”block.” Recently we’ve seen products claiming triple digit SPF protection.

None of these claims has been verified according to the FDA so they’ve decided it’s time to step in.

Here’s what you can expect to see on your sunscreen labels this summer:

1. Broad Spectrum. Only sunscreens that protect against both UVB and UVA rays in equal measure can claim broad coverage – and you want broad coverage. UVB burns you, UVA causes wrinkles, and both contribute to skin cancer.  

2. SPF Levels. A sunscreen must have at least an SPF 15 level of protection to claim it’s effective at preventing skin cancer. Products with SPF levels from 2 to 14 can claim only to help prevent sunburn.

3. Highest SPF Claims. The FDA is proposing to limit all sunscreen claims to no more than SPF 50. There is no evidence that higher SPF products benefit users more than an SPF 15 product, and dermatologists worry the additional ingredients used to increase the SPF level may unnecessarily irritate users’ skin.

4. Water resistance. There’s no such thing as a waterproof sunscreen. The labels now have to tell us how water resistant a product is in terms of “minutes.” The label will indicate that after 30 or 80 minutes of swimming, the product loses its effectiveness, and it’s time to reapply.

5. Spray formulas. The FDA is asking for additional data for the spray sunscreens given that the “dosage” is different from the lotions and creams. They also want to be sure there is no health risk from inhaling the ingredients in the sunscreens.

The FDA has chosen not to include specific “ingredient” considerations in this round of regulations. Environmental groups are concerned about the health effects of some of the sunscreen ingredients. They also suggest the increasingly microscopic size of the particles may enable the product to be absorbed through the skin.  

The FDA has indicated they are confident the sunscreen ingredients are safe and state that the health risk of sun exposure is greater than any risks posed by the use of sunscreens. It is probable the FDA will focus on sunscreen ingredients in the future – there are a host of sunscreens on the market in Japan and Europe that have yet to be approved for use in the US.

So be sure to look for these new labels this summer. The rules will come into full effect this summer, but you may have already seen some of the new labeling this spring. Smaller sunscreen companies have to comply by summer 2013.

Cynda Zurfluh is a mother of three. Her previous life was a corporate blur of meetings and marketing. Her current life, while still a blur, is all about family, writing, and small business consulting. Contact her at [email protected]

For the full story from the FDA, visit their website.

The Environmental Working Group offers some all natural sun safety tips.

Good advice for baby sunscreen use – the what and why.

For a run down on the safety of self tanners.

How to apply bronzer for that quick glow.

How to self tan without the orange streaks.


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