New Labels on Sunscreen—and What They Mean
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s new labeling requirements for sunscreen products are designed to give consumers more accurate efficacies and more reliable warnings. To benefit from this new info, the American Cancer Society urges consumers to learn how to read and interpret these new labels. All products that have a sun protection factor (SPF) are affected, including moisturizers, lip balms, some makeup, and of course sunscreen.
The new rules relate to all aspects of a sunscreen’s claims, including: ‘broad spectrum’ claims, the potential dangers of ‘low’ SPFs, and claims that products are waterproof. Some other changes are these:
- No sunscreen may claim ‘instant’ protection—or even protection for a period of more than two hours without an instruction that it must be reapplied.
- The term ‘sunblock’ may not be used in any circumstances.
- To be labeled ‘broad spectrum,’ products must be tested to prove that they protect not only against harmful UVB rays (that cause sunburn), but also against UVA rays (that damage and prematurely age the skin, and are increasingly associated with skin cancer).
- Low SPFs (under 15) must now carry a warning, as must sunscreen that is not proven to be broad spectrum.
- Although sunscreen manufacturers have claimed otherwise for decades, there is no such thing as a waterproof or sweat-proof sunscreen; the correct term is ‘water resistant,’ and labels must now state how long this water resistance lasts (typically 40 or 80 minutes).
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