Wednesday, May 2, 2012

New Labels for Summer

As we kick off National Skin Cancer Awareness Month this May, it’s important to know that the Food and Drug Administration has issued new labeling rules for sunscreen manufacturers that will become effective June 14, 2012.  No longer will you see the words “sunblock”, “sweat proof”, “waterproof”, or “all day protection”.  If you’ve ever stood in the drug store aisle wondering how to evaluate differing sunscreen claims and SPF’s, the new rules should make your next purchase easier.

Going forward manufacturers will not be able to use language that overstates their product’s effectiveness.  The labels will now clearly state whether a sunscreen protects against sunburn, skin cancer and signs of premature skin aging.  If a label reads “broad spectrum” and has an SPF of 15 or higher, it will protect against all three, but even then it will not be allowed to claim to provide sun protection for more than two hours without reapplication.

For sunscreen products that are not broad spectrum or that are broad spectrum but with an SPF value between 2 and 14 will be labeled with a warning that reads: “Skin Cancer/Skin Aging Alert: Spending time in the sun increases your risk of skin cancer and early skin aging. This product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging.”

No product can claim to provide “instant protection” and as far as being “water resistant” goes, new labels must clearly state whether a consumer can expect to maintain 40 or 80 minutes at the declared SPF level of protection while swimming or sweating, based on uniform testing standards.  Sunscreens that are not water resistant must include a direction instructing users to use a water-resistant sunscreen if swimming or sweating.

These new guidelines are meant to help consumers choose the right level of protection.  Remember that for prolonged exposure look for an SPF of 30 to 40 and that a full application is about two ounces – enough to fill a shot glass.

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