Savvy shopper’s guide to sunscreens: The new FDA rules
Sunshine may be cheerful to see and fun to play in, but it can be devastating to your health and appearance. As you may know, exposure to UV rays is one of the primary risk factors for skin cancer and premature aging. At first, prevention seems simple enough: Stay inside during peak hours, wear protective clothing, and use sunscreen. However, it can become quite complicated and perplexing when you try to purchase sunscreen. Fortunately, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has taken steps to prevent deceptive labeling.
What has changed.
Thanks to new guidelines, sunscreen labels are required to have a few facts that you can count on. What do you need to look for?
- Broad-spectrum – Any sunscreen carrying this designation must protect proportionately against both UVA and UVB rays. This is crucial for reducing your risk of cancer and premature aging.
- Drug box – Similar to over-the-counter medications, sunscreen labels will now have a box that contains pertinent facts and warnings. Be sure to read it.
- Warning labels – Products that are below SPF 15, or that do not provide broad-spectrum protection have not been shown to reduce your risk of cancer or premature aging. They will now have a warning to that effect.
- Water resistant – Sunscreen that claims water or sweat resistance will now have to state the duration of protection, either 40 or 80 minutes. Be sure to re-apply after this length of time.
- Time – Sunscreen is generally not expected to last over two hours. According to the new rules, any product stating longer protection must prove the claim and earn FDA approval. Similarly, formulas can no longer claim instant protection without gaining the approval of the FDA.
- Wording – According to the new regulations, certain misrepresentative words cannot be used. They include “waterproof” “sweatproof” and “sunblock.”
What hasn’t changed
Nothing is perfect, including the new labeling guidelines. A few things to beware (or at least be aware) of include:
- Spray formulas – When you spray something, vapor is released into the air. If you are spraying that substance on your body, there is a good chance you will inhale some of it, especially with children who may turn their heads unexpectedly. Are spray sunscreens harmful? To date, we do not know. The FDA has requested data regarding the safety and effectiveness of these products. However, clinical research and analysis can take a considerable amount of time, so questions about these formulas remain unanswered.
- Exaggerated claims – If SPF 30 is good, SPF 130 must be better, right? Actually, evidence has shown no significant increase in protection with SPF levels over 50. Products more potent than that may expose you to a potentially unhealthy concentration of chemicals, with no benefit. The FDA is considering a ban on labels stating a number higher than 50, but it has yet to be approved.
- Misrepresentations – Be careful of devious marketing techniques such as wording that implies better performance without being specific. Remember to look for the words “broad spectrum,” not a synonym or similar statement. Additionally, be wary of statements like “high performance” “fast acting” or “long lasting.” Look for specific details and FDA endorsements of any claims that sound unlikely.
Remember, the very best way to choose a sunscreen or any other skin care product is to consult your dermatologist. Dr. Vivian Bucay and her exceptional team are here to help you achieve all of your aesthetic and medical skin care goals. Please call 210.692.3000 and schedule a consultation today.
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