New FDA Sunscreen Label Regulations + 4 Things To Know When Buying Sunscreen This Summer

It’s been over a month since the US Food and Drug Administration released a consumer update detailing the steps it is taking to stop manufacturers from producing misleading sunscreen labels. Recently a group of senators that included Senator Jack Reed, Senator Al Franken, and Senator Richard Blumenthal, published an open letter to the FDA, urging the organization to complete its review. In a press release associated with the publication of the letter, Senator Blumenthal remarked, “It is alarming and appalling that sunscreen makers have been allowed for years to make misleading claims about the protection they offer, and I applaud the FDA for finally taking action to stop this abuse… Consumers rely on labels to make critical decisions about how they protect themselves and their families, and this information must be accurate.”

Unfortunately for consumers, the new regulations did not take effect in time for summer 2013. As Senator Blumenthal cautioned, “While the new regulations went into effect late last year, sunscreen on the shelf may still have outdated labels and consumers should continue to be vigilant.”

In the coming months drug stores will be bastions of inaccurately-labeled products. Here’s a list of what to remember when you shop for sunscreen this summer:

If it has an SPF of 1-14, it will not be effective.

In accordance with the new FDA rules, any product that has an SPF below 15 will be required to display a warning that acknowledge that it has not been shown to help prevent skin cancer or early skin aging. Were it in layman’s terms the label would read, “This product does not work.” For effective protection, dermatologists recommend using sunscreen that has an SPF of 50 or higher. Make sure you find out the exact SPF of any product that claims to provide sun protection and be especially weary of “sunscreen-containing” cosmetic products like powders and foundations, as they often have SPF’s of 1-14.anent

Choose lotion.

Preliminary studies have shown that aerosol -based sunscreen may not provide the same protection as sunscreen lotion. Until additional studies prove otherwise, stick to lotion.

Ignore the terms “water-proof” and “sweat-proof.”

In the future manufacturers will be prohibited from claiming that their sunscreens are completely water-resistant. Why? Because no sunscreen is completely water-resistant. Water-resistant product labels will soon divulge how long a user can expect to get the declared SPF. For the time-being, do not expect a “water-proof” product to remain effective for longer than 40 minutes.

Remember that sunscreen cannot provide complete and total sun protection.

In addition to the terms “water-proof” and “sweat-proof,” the FDA has forbidden manufacturers from using the term “sunblock,” since even a high SPF cannot block the sun completely. The only way to truly protect your skin from the sun damage is to limit exposure. You can do so in a number of ways. The FDA recommends limiting time in the sun and, when outdoors, covering skin with clothing, like long-sleeved shirts and pants, hats, and sunglasses.