FDA. SPF. Are they secret codes? Nope. The FDA is the Food and Drug Administration, which enforces safety laws to protect consumers like you. SPF is sun protection factor and refers to the number on a bottle of sunscreen. The FDA has established new rules about displaying SPF to better inform the public about sun protection.
There are new, rigorous tests that sunscreen products must now undergo before they can hit the shelves at your local shop. Accurate results regarding safety and effectiveness of the various types of sunscreens must be achieved during the testing.
The common promises on bottles of sunscreen read: sunblock, waterproof, and prevents skin cancer. These phrases and others are no longer allowed as they may be misleading. Previous labeling rules applied to sunburn protection from rays in the UVB spectrum. The UVA spectrum contributes to cancer development and early skin aging but claims regarding UVA protection were not carefully monitored. The new "Broad Spectrum" test will measure effectiveness against both UVA and UVB rays. Products with the label Broad Spectrum SPF 15 (or more) will be proven to protect against cancer and early skin aging in addition to sunburn.
The new SPF labeling laws have been in the works since summer 2011 and are expected to be fully established and enforced by summer 2012. That means after that time, all sunscreen sold in stores should be accurately labeled. If you have sunscreen from before these changes, it does not mean it is not safe or effective. You do not need to throw these bottles away, according to the FDA. All it means is the labels that promise both UVB and UVA protection may not be as accurate as possible.
New Rules Summary
- A Broad Spectrum SPF 15 or higher label will indicate sufficient protection from sunburn as well as reduced risk for skin cancer and early skin aging. Any protection under 15 may only claim sunburn prevention.
- Claims such as water or sweat proof or sunblock are no longer allowed. No sunscreen is effective after more than two hours. All types should be reapplied at least every two hours.
- Sunscreens that claim to be water resistant must indicate if they are tested effective for 40 or 80 minutes. Any sunscreen that is not water resistant must direct consumers that may swim or sweat to use a water resistant sunscreen.
- All bottles of sunscreen must feature Drug Facts information on the container.
Sun Protection Tips
- Limit your time in the sun and avoid exposure during midday peak hours (10 a.m.- 2 p.m.)
- Wear light, loose, protective clothing including a wide-brimmed hat.
- Reapply water resistant sunscreen after swimming or sweating in addition to every two hours.
Regional Medical Center wants you to have safe fun in the sun this summer. Check your sunscreen labels carefully before purchasing. Find out more online about the devastating effects of skin cancer. You can also learn more about how Regular Sunscreen Use May Reduce the Risk of Melanoma. Next time you step out into the sun, don’t forget your sunscreen with new and improved labels.