Understanding The New SPF Labels On Suntan Lotions

Ever find yourself wandering down an aisle full of sunscreen without knowing exactly what the SPF on the bottle means, and which lotion you need to use for proper protection?

Fear not, as these labels are getting a re-vamp thanks to a recent ruling made by the FDA to update them to more accurately reflect what protection the lotion actually provides.

The New Label

By next summer, under the new FDA rules, each sunscreen on the shelf will have to offer protection against both types of sun rays: Ultraviolet B and A. The new bottles will be required to possess a SPF of at least 15 as well, or risk being forced to carry a warning label that reads: “This product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging.” The previous FDA rulings only covered Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays and did not touch on the Ultraviolet a (UVA) rays which are the rays most damaging to the skin as they can cause cancerous effects.

Also under the new outline of FDA requirements, sunscreens are no longer allowed to be marketed as completely “sweatproof,” “waterproof,” or “a sunblock.” These are all words that the FDA has called “exaggerations of performance,” and under the new guidelines any company that wishes to market their product with special claims such as these will be forced to go through an approval process via the FDA to gather factual data about the products performance to earn the right to use the terms. Also in an effort to make the label offer more honest information the SPF value that may be displayed on a bottle has been capped at 50+, as the FDA does not feel that there was enough supporting data to validate the higher numbers offering substantially more protection.

What about My Current Sunscreen?

Lady in a beachWith these new requirements and the gross use of performance exaggerations on older bottles, it must come to mind to ask whether or not the sunscreen you currently are using is acceptable. The very simple answer is yes, the sunscreen you already have does protect against UVA rays. Somewhat.

The FDA still backs the current sunscreens in the market as the ingredients contained in FDA-approved bottles have been used for years, and the FDA has zero reason to think that these products are not effective when used correctly. After all: these are products already backed by the FDA, they are not suddenly defective.

Sunscreen and sun glassesThe new set of regulations is only an effort to ensure that products on the shelf are actually doing what they claim to do: Offer proper protection in the battle against skin damage. This is because while it is true that the current bottles of sunscreen offer some level of UVA protection, the FDA never really tested or regulated this amount as it now will be doing. Sunscreens that want to promote their UVA protection will not have to pass the new regulatory testing via the FDA to see just how much UVA protection there is to comparison to the UVB, as this information will allow the FDA to better manage and prevent skin damage and early cancer risks.

As one last important reminder: The FDA is not questioning the quality of sunscreen ingredients. The risk of not using a sunscreen is simply so much greater than the risk of a questionable ingredient that the FDA pleads for the public to use a sunscreen, and use it correctly anytime they plan to be exposed.


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