This summer, most of the sunscreen on store shelves must conform to new Food and Drug Administration labeling rules. The changes may help remedy consumer misperceptions and make it easier for you to understand what you’re buying.
As the weather heats up here in the Sunshine State, it’s time to slather on extra sunscreen to protect your skin. But before you shop for sunscreen this season, you should understand the key terms you will likely find on packages this summer.
Broad Spectrum : Use of this label now means the sunscreen has been proved to protect against both UVA and UVB rays, both of which cause cancer, although the UVA protection may be comparatively weaker.
Water Resistant: Products cannot claim to be waterproof, only water-resistant, and labels must note a time limit of either 40 or 80 minutes before the sunscreen is ineffective. Labels can no longer use the claims “waterproof,” “sweat-proof,” or “sunblock.”
Warnings: Labels on sunscreens with an SPF of 15 and higher that have also passed the broad-spectrum test can state that the product reduces the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging when used as directed with other protective measures, such as clothing and limiting time in the sun. Sunscreens with an SPF of 2 to 14 and those with an SPF above 15 without a broad-spectrum claim must carry a label warning it will not protect against skin cancer and can only say that they protect against sunburn.
SPF 50+: Sunscreens can still claim SPFs that exceed 50, though F.D.A. officials are evaluating whether they should remain on the market. It’s not clear that sunscreens with higher SPFs actually are more effective, and consumers may not apply them as frequently. A final determination hasn’t yet been made, but super-high SPF could be a thing of the past. The FDA says it doesn’t have enough data to prove that sunscreens with an SPF above 50 provide additional protection.
Consumer Report testing also showed that paying more may not buy more protection—the least effective sunscreens were among the priciest.
Tips for applying sunscreen….
- Proper application. Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure. Use at least 2 to 3 tablespoons of lotion to cover exposed skin. For sprays, use as much as can be rubbed in, then repeat. Reapply every two hours or after swimming or excessive sweating. Avoid using sprays directly on kids. Adults should spray sunscreen onto their own hands before applying to their face. Sprays are flammable so allow them to dry before going near an open flame.
- Proper storage: Don’t store sunscreen in a hot car—it may degrade faster. Skiers take note: once frozen, sunscreens may lose effectiveness. The FDA requires manufacturers to provide an expiration date or show that a product will remain stable (but not necessarily maintain its SPF) for at least three years. Consumers who buy sunscreen without an expiration date should write the date of purchase on the bottle, and toss it once it’s two years old.
- Spray Carefully: The FDA has said it is exploring the risks of inhaling spray sunscreens. Until we know more, the FDA says to avoid using sprays on children, and do not spray them directly on the face. Instead, spray sunscreen onto your hands then apply it to your face. Sprays are flammable, so let them dry before going near an open flame.
To stay safe in the sun, wear a hat and protective clothing along with plenty of sunscreen that is at least 30SPF and water resistant.
Skin cancer is not uncommon here in Florida, so it’s important not only to protect your kids and yourself by using sunscreen but also to seek a professional if you notice any skin changes such as a new mole that seems to be getting darker over time.
To learn more about skin cancer and treatment options for this condition or if you’re ready to take the next steps toward resolving your skin issues, make an appointment with Gainesville skin cancer surgeon Dr. Daniel Hall and associates at Accent Plastics today.