FDA Issues New Sunscreen Label Rules


We’ve been reporting that the FDA will be making significant changes to sunscreen labels and we now may see the results!

The FDA is making changes to how sunscreens are marketed in the United States as part of the Agency’s ongoing efforts to ensure that sunscreens meet modern-day standards for safety and effectiveness and to help consumers have the information they need so they can choose the right sun protection for themselves and their families.

So for those of you traveling this summer and are planning on bringing some sunscreen, you’ll notice a few changes to sunscreens.

Here are some of the new changes implemented by the FDA:

  • UVA & UVB: Sunscreens must protect against both UVA and UVB rays to be deemed “broad spectrum”—a coveted designation, since it is common knowledge now that while UVB rays cause burning and UVA ones cause wrinkling, they both cause cancer.
  • Waterproof Labeling: Sunscreens can no longer be labeled “waterproof” or “sweatproof”—instead, they can be called “water-resistant,” since these claims overstate their effectiveness and  a truly waterproof sun-protecting lotion does not exist.
  •  Water-resistant Labeling: Water resistance claims on the front label must indicate whether the sunscreen remains effective for 40 minutes or 80 minutes while swimming or sweating, based on standard testing. Sunscreens that are not water resistant must include a direction instructing consumers to use a water resistant sunscreen if swimming or sweating.
  • SPF Value:  The maximum SPF value on sunscreen labels will be limited to “50 +” because there is not sufficient data to show that products with SPF values higher than 50 provide greater protection for users than products with SPF values of 50.
  • Skin Cancer vs Sunburn: Only Broad Spectrum sunscreens with an SPF value of 15 or higher can claim to reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging if used as directed with other sun protection measures. Non-Broad Spectrum sunscreens and Broad Spectrum sunscreens with an SPF value between 2 and 14 can only claim to help prevent sunburn.

That means that this summer you can find sunscreens in stores that are advertised as waterproof and sweatproof—but don’t be fooled. A broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 to 50 is sufficient protection, but you should never go more than two hours without reapplying, especially if you’ve been swimming or working up a sweat.

These new rules should be taking place this Summer but but the bottles on shelves may not reflect those changes until next year. Companies are getting a little extra time to meet the new packaging requirements—six months for big companies, and as late as December 2013 for smaller ones.

For more details on what the FDA is doing, click here 

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