Last week the FDA announced new rules for sunscreen labels that will go into effect within a year. The FDA crackdown will bring a far less complicated labeling system to the shelves, and we can all rest a little easier knowing exactly which sunscreen we should be putting on.
The top four things you should know before restocking your summer 2012 sunscreen stash:
- Broad spectrum: in order for a sunscreen to claim that it is broad spectrum, it must "provide protection against both ultraviolet B radiation (UVB) and ultraviolet A radiation (UVA)." UVB radiation causes sunburns, while UVA causes wrinkling and premature aging; they both cause cancer.
- Physical and chemical sunscreen: A physical sunscreen is just that: A physical UV filter deflects the sun. The ingredients zinc and titanium oxide lay on top of the skin to fend off harmful rays. A chemical sunscreen, on the other hand, employs chemical UV filters (avobenzone and oxybenzone are popular ingredients) and absorbs the sun's rays.
- Phrases like "waterproof, sweatproof, sunblock and instant protection": There's no such thing as "waterproof" or "sweatproof". The word "sunblock" has been prohibited by the FDA along with "instant protection." (They generally take about 25-30 minutes to become effective.) Labels can, however, claim to be "water resistant" in increments of 40 to 80 minutes.
- SPF30 or higher ONLY: Dermatologists generally agree that you should apply an SPF30 or higher. According to New York Dermatologist Dr. Anne Chapas: "This is usually adequate for low levels of sun exposure. The number means that it would take 30 times longer to burn than not wearing any sunscreen. That means if it would take a minute to burn without sunscreen, it would take 30 minutes to burn after applying the recommended amount of SPF30."