Sunscreens and the FDA

In the June 2012 issue of InStyle Magazine(p. 159-160), “Burning Questions” attempts to provide, in a light and entertaining fashion, answers to various questions men and woman often have about sunscreens. I would consider this article a little on the “light side”, however,as it contains such amusing sections as edible sunscreens. Nevertheless, it does raise the subject of sun protection and serves as a good introduction to the changes the FDA has promulgated regarding sunscreens. These changes are scheduled to go in effect next month (June 2012). The FDA has provided a question and answer webpage for the consumer that answers the most common questions you may have about these changes.

These rules include changes in how the term BROAD SPECTRUM may be used on a sunscreen. As of next month, any sunscreen product that you may see labeled as broad spectrum must, in fact, provide you with relatively equivalent protection against both UVB (i.e., sunburn) and UVA (i.e., skin cancer, early aging). SPF is a measure of the amount of UV protection you get with the product on your skin versus no protection. Sunscreens that protect equivalently by FDA standards to both UVA and UVB will be labeled BROAD SPECTRUM SPF. Only products with a broad spectrum SPF of 15 or higher will be able to claim protection against skin cancer and premature aging. In addition, the maximum protection a product will be able to claim is SPF 50+.

Manufactures will also no longer be able claim UV protection for longer than 2 hours or water resistance for longer than 40 or 80 minutes. As the FDA also feels that the use of the terms sunblock, sweatproof, and waterproof exaggerate the effectiveness of this class of product, you will no longer see them used for sunscreens.