New FDA rules for sunscreens

This week, the FDA announced a series of changes that will affect how sunscreens are labelled. This is a good thing for consumers: the manufacturers will have to be very clear about whether the product products against UVA rays, or the more typical UVB. Misleading terms like “sunblock” and “waterproof” are going to be eliminated. Just so you know: there is no sunscreen yet invented that is totally waterproof, or is a 100% sunblock. These are BS marketing terms.

Under the new labeling system, which takes effect in 2012, the key feature to look for on the label will be the term “broad spectrum”. If you see this, then you are getting both UVA and UVB protection, which is what you want. Here’s an example of how the new labels might look – there’s much more useful information.

Here’s more details, directly from the FDA website….

Q. What are the main points of the new FDA sunscreen rule?

A. The new final rule includes the following requirements:

Broad Spectrum designation. Sunscreens that pass FDA’s broad spectrum test procedure, which measures a product’s UVA protection relative to its UVB protection, may be labeled as “Broad Spectrum SPF [value]” on the front label. For Broad Spectrum sunscreens, SPF values also indicate the amount or magnitude of overall protection. Broad Spectrum SPF products with SPF values higher than 15 provide greater protection and may claim additional uses, as described in the next bullet.

Use claims. Only Broad Spectrum sunscreens with an SPF value of 15 or higher can claim to reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging if used as directed with other sun protection measures. Non-Broad Spectrum sunscreens and Broad Spectrum sunscreens with an SPF value between 2 and 14 can only claim to help prevent sunburn.

“Waterproof, “sweatproof” or “sunblock” claims. Manufacturers cannot label sunscreens as “waterproof” or “sweatproof,” or identify their products as “sunblocks,” because these claims overstate their effectiveness. Sunscreens also cannot claim to provide sun protection for more than 2 hours without reapplication or to provide protection immediately after application (for example– “instant protection”) without submitting data to support these claims and obtaining FDA approval.
Water resistance claims. Water resistance claims on the front label must indicate whether the sunscreen remains effective for 40 minutes or 80 minutes while swimming or sweating, based on standard testing. Sunscreens that are not water resistant must include a direction instructing consumers to use a water resistant sunscreen if swimming or sweating.

Drug Facts. All sunscreens must include standard “Drug Facts” information on the back and/or side of the container.

Sunscreen lotions will also no longer be able to advertise that they carry an SPF, or sun protection factor, of greater than 50.

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