Winter is over, the sun is shining and it’s time to roll down the windows, break out your favorite pair of shorts and sandals and get outside.
But before you head out for a day of fun in the sun, you may want to take note of some recent changes to the label on your sunscreen bottle.
This year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) increased the labeling standards for all sunscreen manufacturers. As you may have guessed, they’re meant to better inform consumers on certain terms used and protect from misleading claims.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Any label that has a number greater than SPF 50 is considered misleading to consumers.
- Sunscreen cannot block 100 percent of ultraviolet (UV) rays, therefore the term “sunblock” is now banned.
- Only sunscreens that have passed UVA and UVB tests by the FDA can be labeled “Broad Spectrum.”
- Sunscreen can no longer be marketed as “water-proof” or “sweat-proof” since it must be re-applied after a period of time.
DeAnn Lazovich, Ph.D., M.P.H., an associate professor in the School of Public Health and a respected voice in the national discussion on the effects of sun tanning on skin, explained the new guidelines to Health Talk.
“The new guidelines should help take the guesswork out of choosing a sunscreen,” Lazovich said. “They also help provide more direct information on the differences in how sunscreens are marketed, such as terms like water-resistant but not water-proof, and reminders about how often and when to re-apply sunscreen.”
According to Lazovich, one important piece is still missing, though. Labels still neglect to tell consumers how much sunscreen to use.
“Studies show that consumers typically apply less than half of the recommended amount, or the amount that is needed for the full SPF effect,” Lazovich said. “If less than half of the amount of an SPF 15 sunscreen is used, it is like using a sunscreen with an SPF of less than 5, or not much more protection than a sun tan would offer.”
With May being Skin Cancer Awareness month, Lazovich, as well as all of us at Health Talk, want people to be safe in the sun. With that, she urges people to use other protective measures with sunscreen.
“I think we really need to be emphasizing not to use sunscreen to prolong our time spent in the sun, but only as a complement to other sun protection measures,” Lazovich said. “Cover up, stay in the shade and avoid the sun during peak hours.”
Read the official guidelines from the FDA.