New rules for sunscreen labels

Graphic courtesy of the FDA via Flickr.Graphic courtesy of the FDA via Flickr.The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced new rules for sunscreen labels this week that should make it easier to figure out which product is best for you and your family.

"FDA has evaluated the data and developed testing and labeling requirements for sunscreen products, so that manufacturers can modernize their product information and consumers can be well-informed on which products offer the greatest benefit," said Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "These changes to sunscreen labels are an important part of helping consumers have the information they need so they can choose the right sun protection for themselves and their families."

One of most obvious changes will be in that big number displayed on the bottle or tube. Within the next year, the highest sun protection factor (SPF) that a product can claim will be 50. The reason? "There is not sufficient data to show that products with SPF values higher than 50 provide greater protection for users than products with SPF values of 50," the FDA said in a statement made Tuesday.

"Not only should consumers regularly apply and reapply sunscreens," Woodcock said, "they should also limit sun exposure."

Sunburns are caused by overexposure to Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays; both Ultraviolet a (UVA) and UVB radiation can cause skin cancer and premature skin aging. Sunscreens that protect against both UVA and UVB rays will be allowed to be labeled "broad spectrum"; broad-spectrum creams and sprays with a SPF of 15 or higher will be able to claim that they reduce the risk of skin cancer and premature skin aging. (Those that have SPFs of less than 15, however, will be required to say on their labels that they don't provide that kind of protection.)

Also: Since no spray- or slather-on product truly blocks 100 percent of the sun's rays, products will no longer be allowed to be called "sun block," the LA Times reported. And "water resistant" will replace the terms "waterproof" and "sweat proof"-and labels must clearly state how long that resistance works.

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