Confused by the labels on your sunscreen? You’re not alone. That’s why the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revamped the rules for what goes on those labels.
The new requirements are aimed at making it easier to choose products that will most effectively protect against the harmful rays of the sun, which can cause sunburn, cancer and premature skin aging.
Most labels are expected to be in compliance by December, but some have already hit the shelves. Consumers can expect the following changes:
- In order to label themselves “broad-spectrum,” sunscreens must now protect against ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. A standard test for over-the-counter sunscreens will determine if a product qualifies.
- Sunscreens that have an SPF (sun protection factor) lower than 15 are required to put warnings on their labels stating that the product does not protect against skin cancer or premature skin aging.
- Brands are no longer allowed to call themselves “sweatproof” or “waterproof” because those terms overstate the effectiveness of the products. All labels will now recommend reapplication every two hours.
- Claims of “water resistance” must tell how long the user can expect to be protected while sweating or swimming, either 40 minutes or 80 minutes, to be determined by standardized testing.
Thanks to these new labeling guidelines, we’ll be better informed in the sunscreen aisle. Remember to get an SPF of 30 to 50 and reapply every two hours for maximum benefit.
Important as sunscreen is, though, it’s just one piece of sun safety. Also:
- Limit exposure, especially in the middle of the day when the sun’s rays are the strongest.
- Wear protective clothing.
- Seek shade.
- Get suspicious moles checked out by a doctor.
- Visit a dermatologist for a full body mole-check once a year if you have a family history of skin cancer or lots of moles. Caught early, precancerous moles can be removed before they ever become dangerous.
Negative effects from the sun are largely preventable, so be proactive to drastically reduce your risks.