Ever found yourself in the sunscreen aisle at the drugstore staring zombie-like at the confusing product labels? Well you're not alone. For too long sunscreen labels have boasted claims like "waterproof" and "broad spectrum" without clearly defining what these mean.
Click image to enlarge.
For the first time since 1978, new guidelines are going into effect regarding sunscreen labels. The FDA unveiled the new rules last year, but they take effect on June 18, 2012 (product labels must be compliant by December 17, 2012)
Here are the key changes:
- Products labeled "broad spectrum" must protect against both UVA and UVB radiation.
- Broad spectrum sunscreens with SPF 15 or higher can claim to reduce the risk of skin cancer and premature aging of the skin.
- Sunscreens without broad spectrum protection, or with SPF between 2 and 14, cannot claim to protect against skin cancer or aging, only sunburn.
- Sunscreens will not be labeled "waterproof" or "sweat proof." Instead labels will show how long a sunscreen maintains its SPF protection while swimming or sweating: either 40 or 80 minutes.
- Sun protection products cannot be called "sunblock."
- Sunscreens may not claim to provide "instant protection," as they need time to sink in.
- Products cannot claim to protect you longer than two hours at a time.
The FDA is currently considering further guidelines. In the meantime, make sure to employ these sun protection tips:
- Always use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.
- Avoid sun exposure between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm, when the sun's rays are strongest.
- Wear clothing that protects skin from the sun, such as long sleeves, pants, broad-brimmed hats and sunglasses.
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours, more frequently if sweating or swimming.
Source: Food and Drug Administration