Now that summer is officially here, ocean waves and fun in the sun on a sandy beach spells the ultimate vacation for many people. At the top of every health-conscious beach lover’s to-do list is making sure plenty of sunscreen
is on hand. But choosing the right sunscreen is easier said than done. There are so many different SPF numbers and claims as to what kind of protection they offer that many people aren’t sure just what they’re getting.
However, making smart choices doesn't have to be hard. The FDA guidelines on sunscreen make getting ready for safe fun in the sun a lot less daunting.The recent FDA guidelines for sunscreens.
The FDA is taking steps to help consumers avoid the skin damage that results from excessive sun exposure. These measures include the following:
- Labeling that accurately reflects the true effectiveness of sunscreen products.
- Limiting the maximum SPF value on sunscreen labeling to “SPF 50+”
- Requesting data or safety and effectiveness information for sunscreen products formulated in certain dosage forms, for example sprays or lotions.
- Guidance for sunscreen manufacturers on how to test and label their products in light of these new measures.
A spokesperson from the FDA’s division of non-prescription regulation development states, “These measures are necessary because our scientific understanding has grown. We want consumers to understand that not all sunscreens are created equal.”
Broad spectrum sunscreens.
The FDA’s final regulations provide a clearer determination as to which products can be labeled as “broad spectrum.”
Sunscreens that pass a standard test can be labeled as such and they will offer protection against both ultraviolet B radiation (UVB) and ultraviolet A radiation (UVA). The UVB rays are primarily responsible for sunburn. Both UVB and UVA can lead to sunburn, skin cancer, and premature skin aging. A certain percentage of a broad spectrum product’s total protection is against UVA. But under FDA regulations, sunscreen products that protect against all types of sun-induced skin damage can be labeled broad-spectrum and “SPF 15” or higher on the front.
Also, labeling on the back of the product lets consumers know that sunscreens labeled as both broad-spectrum and SPF 15 not only protect against sunburn, but can also reduce the risk of skin cancer and premature skin aging when used with other sun protection measures. These broad spectrum products have SPF values that indicate the amount of overall protection.
By contrast, sunscreens not labeled as broad spectrum or that have a SPF value between 2 and 14 will only help prevent sunburn.
“Waterproof,” “sweatproof,” and “sunblock” claims.
Water resistant claims on the product label must tell how much time a user can expect to get the declared SPF level of protection while swimming or sweating, based on standard testing. Two time frames are allowed on labels: 40 minutes or 80 minutes.
In addition, manufacturers cannot make claims that sunscreens are waterproof or sweat proof or identify either product as “sunblocks.” They also can’t claim instant protection or protection for more than two hours without reapplication unless manufacturers submit data and get approval from the FDA.
The FDA states that it has been working on these requirements for decades but only recently have they accumulated enough data to put the new guidelines into effect. The guidelines state that all sunscreens must contain the new required labeling by the summer of 2012.Some sun safety tips for in the meantime.
There’s no doubt excessive sun increases skin cancer risk and premature aging. You can reduce this risk by using broad-spectrum products that have an SPF value of 15 or higher, and limit the amount of time in the sun, especially between 10 AM and 2 PM. Wear broad brim hats, sunglasses, long sleeve shirts and pants, and reapply sunscreen at least every two hours or more if you’re sweating or swimming. Follow these tips,
and you can have the safest sun-filled summer to date!