New Rules on Sunscreens 

If you’re like most people, shopping for sunscreens can be confusing.  What’s the difference between UVA and UVB?  Which chemicals are effective?  Which ones should I avoid?  Am I getting enough protection?

Relief came at last on June 14th , after 30 years of debate and research.   The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced new guidelines that will govern sunscreens sold in the US.  These guidelines will go into effect in the summer of 2012.

 New rules:


Only products that protect you from both UVA and UVB sun rays can be labeled as broad spectrum. In addition, products that have a sun protection factor (SPF) of less than 15, must carry a warning that the product does not diminish the risk of skin cancer or prevent premature aging.

 Furthermore, the FDA has banned exaggerated claims about sunscreens’ strength and durability.   Manufacturers are no longer  allowed to use the term “sunblock” as there is no lotion that entirely blocks the sun’s rays. Sunscreen products can not be labeled as waterproof or sweat proof, but they can be labeled as water or sweat resistant. And finally, sunscreen cannot claim to provide more than 2 hours of protection without reapplication.

 SPF Rating

The FDA weighed in on SPF ratings too, by establishing uniform criteria that must be followed for testing SPF ratings. For testing to be valid, two milligrams of lotion must be applied to every square centimeter of skin. Most people use only half that amount, which means you’re not getting the full protection advertised.   The FDA has also recommended an SPF upper limit of 50 plus, unless the manufacturer can show that a higher number is justifiable.

 The new labeling was created to help protect your skin from sun exposure.   Regular and proper use of sunscreen has the potential to reduce the rates of skin cancer in the United States. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is responsible for 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers.

 A few things to remember:

  • ·Sun products should be stored in a cool, dry place and replaced every year for best efficacy. 
  • ·Be sure to apply at least two ounces of sunscreen on exposed areas, including the back of your neck, ears, feet and hands.
  • ·Remember to protect yourself and your little ones!