Tired of watching consumers getting literally burned, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has developed new regulations for the makers of sunscreen products. The new rules go into effect on Dec. 17, 2012.
According to Dr. Laurie Woll, a dermatologist with practices in Glendora and Montclair, Calif., they were long time coming. “The FDA’s regulations for sunscreens hadn’t been updated in more than 30 years,” Woll said.
Under the new FDA guidelines:
Sunscreens may only be labeled “broad spectrum” if they protect the skin from both ultraviolet-A (UVA) rays and ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays. UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin and contribute to wrinkles and premature aging while UVB rays are the main cause of sunburn.
Any sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of less than 15 must have a warning label that the product does not protect the skin from sunburn, premature aging, and skin cancer.
Consumers will no longer see the familiar labels “sunblock,” “waterproof,” and “sweatproof.” Instead, manufacturers may only call their products water-resistant and must indicate how often they must be reapplied.
Lastly, sunscreens can no longer carry an SPF label greater than 50. The SPF was capped at 50 because the FDA found scant benefits above that level. For example, an SPF 30 shields against 97 percent, and SPF 50 fights off 98 percent of UVB rays. The FDA didn’t want consumers to falsely believe that an SPF 100 would offer double the protection of an SPF 50 product.
The new SPF regulations were supposed to have gone into effect this spring, in time for the high rate of summer sun exposure, but sunscreen makers successfully lobbied for more time to re-label and reformulate their products.
Once the new regulations go into effect in mid-December, how much sunscreen should you apply? The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using one ounce (or enough to fill a shot glass) to cover the body in one application.
As for how often you should reapply, simply consult your new label.