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In The Know: New Sunscreen Labeling Rules

SunBuddy Lotion Applicator - Sunscreen Spectrum

After more than 30 years, the FDA has finally updated regulations for sunscreens. For years, mislabeling has caused mass customer confusion and misleading claims. With skin cancer on the rise, consumers have the right to know if their sunscreen of choice is safely and effectively protecting them from the sun’s cancerous UV rays.

The new FDA regulations require sunscreen brands to rework their labels and possibly their formulas because of new testing methods. Major sunscreen brands had until December 2012 to comply with the new regulations. So, the sunscreen products available today at your local retailer should include the updated labels to make it easier for you to choose the right one for you.

Keep in mind there quite a few changes. But in the end, it is a win-win situation for us, the consumers.

Here’s a summary of what to look out for:

SPF Protection

Sunscreens with a SPF of 15+ can be marked to reduce the risk of skin cancer and premature skin aging.

Sunscreens with SPF 2-14 must now display a warning that the product has not been shown to prevent skin cancer or premature skin aging.

A sunscreen cannot claim to provide 2 hours of protection without valid data and tests to prove it.

Broad Spectrum

Prior to the new FDA regulations, there was no standards regulating the term ‘broad spectrum.’ Thus, some sunscreen brands stated broad spectrum protection even if the sunscreen contained only a small amount of UVA blocking ingredients. In essence, the term ‘broad spectrum’ was more a marketing gimmick.

However, the new FDA regulations only allow sunscreens to be labeled as broad spectrum if they provide a SPF of 15 or higher and have passed a FDA-sanctioned test to prove protection against UVA and UVB radiation.

Proof versus Resistant

The terms ‘waterproof’, ‘sweatproof’, and ‘sunblock’are no longer allowed on sunscreen labels. The term ‘water-resistant’may be used if the sunscreen has been tested to protect the skin for 40 to 80 minutes of swimming or sweating. A disclaimer must be included to instruct the consumer to reapply after 40 to 80 minutes or to use a ‘water-resistant’ sunscreen if swimming or excessively sweating.

 SPF 100

Although not a regulation, the FDA is promoting the SPF cap to be 50. The FDA claims that they have not found data that proves SPF 100 to be more effective than SPF 50. Therefore, consumers should not be misled that a sunscreen product of SPF 100 provides double the protection on a sunscreen of SPF 50. This is simply not true.

Makeup Claims

In the past, cosmetic companies have labeled their makeup products to include SPF and broad spectrum protection. Because the new FDA regulations that do not make a distinction between beach and cosmetic products, makeup products that claim sun protection are subjected to the same regulations and tests as sunscreen products. Thus, this will cause cosmetic companies to re-evaluate their claims and possibly alter their ingredients and labels.

Sunscreen Sprays

The FDA has requested additional data from manufactures to determine if spray-on sunscreens are effective and/or harmful if inhaled.