What you need to know about sunscreen

New labeling requirements to define ‘broad spectrum,’ provide information about sunscreens’ staying power


As a tanning-challenged American, I have learned to accept my porcelain skin as a badge of honor. Not only will my skin remain smooth and gorgeous as I age, but I don’t have to worry that every spot on my skin is going to metastasize to my liver.

In order to keep my milky white glow, I have to be very diligent with sunscreen, and I have had to do a lot of research to know what products to buy. I know that experts recommend at least an SPF of 30, and that anything over SPF 50 is pure marketing; tests of added benefits above that protection level have proven inconclusive. I also know that sunscreen should be applied 15-30 minutes before sun exposure to be completely effective.

Now, the Food and Drug Administration is requiring new labels to help even the golden goddesses of the world understand protective lotions as well as I do.

The new requirements state that any product labeled as “broad spectrum” must be proven to protect against the two types of harmful ultraviolet rays your exposed to when venturing into the sun — UVA and UVB. UVA rays contribute to aging and skin cancer, while UVB rays are responsible for painful sunburns.

In addition, “water resistant” sunscreens will have to list how long they stand up to swimming and sweating, thus telling you how often you will need to reapply, and meet certain standards before they can make claims about protection from aging and skin cancer. Claims about instant or all-day protection will also have to be scientifically proven.

Manufacturers will not be allowed to say their products are “waterproof,” because none of them are. The same goes for labeling a product as “sunblock.”

To read more about the FDA’s new sunscreen regulations click here.

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