As the first official week of summer is now behind us, we find ourselves outside more and more. You may be wanting to get your daily dose of Vitamin D. You might be training for that next 5K, marathon, triathlon or playing in a summer softball league. We want to make sure we protect ourselves from injuries, but also protect ourselves from sunburns! Damage from the sun can lead to early skin aging, wrinkles or skin cancer. Sunscreen is an important way to protect your skin from harm, and because of this, the industry is about to get a major overhaul.
The Food and Drug Administration has proposed new regulations that will change the way information on sunscreens is presented to you, the consumer. Currently some of the information can be misleading and
“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 Janet Woodcock, MD, 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.”
This is long overdue as the last time sunscreens had any sort of packaging update was in 1978!
Before I dive into the new regulations, with my waterproof sunscreen on of course, I want to talk about the different types of radiation that the sun emits: UVA and UVB. UVA is the type of radiation associated with giving you that bronze glow. UVA is also the type of radiation that can be found in tanning beds. Sunburns are caused by UVB radiation and are what the SPF in your sunscreen protects against. SPF is the sun protection factor. Currently these numbers range from 2 to about 70 +. Both UVA and UVB radiation are linked to skin cancer. Most sunscreens currently available do have protection against UVA and UVB.
The new regulations promote a change in terminology:
- Sunscreens that have UVA and UVB protection will now be known as broad spectrum. SPF, which as I mentioned is protection from UVB radiation, will also still be on the package.
- SPF ratings 15 and above will be allowed to state that they not only protect against early skin aging but also reduce the risk of skin cancer. SPF’s lower than 15 help prevent sunburn but do not serve any other protective function.
- The highest SPF rating will be 50+ as studies have shown there is no additional benefit beyond fifty.
- Waterproof or sweat proof sunscreens will be vigorously tested to determine the exact amount of time they provide sun protection. This gives the consumer an idea of how frequently they need to reapply to minimize the risk of burning. Most sunscreens need to be reapplied about every two hours. Without approval from the FDA, that is the longest amount of time allowed.
The new regulations will go into effect by June 18, 2012 but the FDA is hoping that these new rules will be implemented sooner. Smaller companies have two years to comply with the guidelines.
There are other ways to avoid excessive sun exposure like staying in the shade under a tree or umbrella or covering your skin with more clothing. Sunglasses with UV protection are also a good idea to protect those peepers! Remember to keep applying that sunscreen every 2 hours. Using sunscreen as directed with help you maximize the brown without the burn.