Spending time in the sun represents one of the most enjoyable parts of summer, but the risk of sunburn, early aging and skin cancer do not. To mitigate these risks while keeping individuals more comfortable all season long, numerous sunscreens exist.
In the past, these products have made claims on their packaging that have failed to bear out in regular use. Those believing they were providing themselves with superior sun protection often put stock in misleading claims, leading users to purchase products less effective than advertised and use them less liberally than intended.
To combat widespread misunderstanding about the nature and efficacy regarding sunscreen, the FDA recently released new labeling guidelines to reduce the ambiguity of packaging claims. These new restrictions include:
1. Cancer risk statements. On products providing SPF below 15, the FDA now requires companies to provide a disclaimer stating they do not provide sufficient protection from early skin aging or cancer.
2. Water resistance clarifications. To reflect the inability of any sun protection product to provide “all day protection” or “sweat-proof” or “waterproof” qualities, sunscreens may now designate themselves only as “Water Resistant (40 Minutes)” or “Water Resistant (80 Minutes).”
3. Limits on SPF levels. Although sunscreens once designated themselves as high as SPF 100, few products offer more than SPF 50 protection, which blocks close to 100 percent of the sun’s rays. Most highly-rated sunscreens will now advertise as “SPF 50+.”
4. Tighter restrictions on broad-spectrum. The term “broad-spectrum” refers to products providing protection from UVA as well as UVB rays. Companies must now pass a wavelength test to ascertain their protection from UVA rays.
5. Elimination of “sunblock.” This previously used term misled many consumers into believing a product provided full protection from UV rays, leading the FDA to designate all sun protection products as sunscreen.
The FDA’s new regulations have provided additional oversight in an industry prone to ambiguous claims.
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