The Latest Sunscreen Guidelines

Broad-spectrum. Sweat-resistant. Sunblock. SPF 100. What do all of these terms really mean?

Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stepped up to clearly define what makes an effective sunscreen. And manufacturers are being held accountable to these new standards.Many have used hot-button words like "broad spectrum" or "SPF 100" to encourage you to buy their products without making sure these sunscreens truly have long-lasting sun-protecting qualities.

These new regulations are included in the FDA's requirements to sunscreen manufacturers:

  • The maximum Sun Protection Factor (SPF) should be labeled as SPF 50 plus since SPF higher than 50 does not give you any more sun protection.
  • The only way sunscreen can be labeled as "broad spectrum" is if the product has ingredients that can directly protect against both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation.
  • Test-approved broad-spectrum sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher are the only products that can state they protect against skin cancer when used as directed with other sun protection measures.
  • The FDA mandates that sunscreens with an SPF between 2 and14 must have a label that clearly warns consumers it only protects against sunburn but doesn't help prevent skin cancer or premature skin aging.
  • Terms such as "sunblock," "sweatproof," or "waterproof" are not permitted on sunscreen labels anymore. This is because there isn't one product that truly blocks the sun's rays 100 percent or can entirely prevent water from washing away the sunscreen.
  • Sunscreens can claim to be "water-resistant," however the product must clearly state how many minutes of protection it can offer while swimming or sweating. Sunscreens that are not water-resistant must instruct you to opt for a water-resistant sunscreen when swimming or sweating.
  • Manufacturers cannot claim that the sunscreen will offer sun protection for more than two hours since this claim has been proven false.

Keep in mind  that wearing sunscreen alone isn't enough. For complete sun protection, experts suggest you wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, a hat, and sunglasses-and seek out the shade whenever possible. Additionally, adhere to these important sun safety tips to reduce your risk for premature aging and skin cancer:

  • Regularly use broad spectrum sunscreens of SPF 15 or higher.
  • Apply sunscreen on parts of the body that are usually ignored including the neck, ears, feet, and back of the hands.
  • Limit your time in the sun, especially between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours and more often if you've been sweating or swimming.

If you're unsure that the sunscreen you have or the sunscreen you want to purchase has the right criteria for true skin protection, check out the Skin Cancer Foundation's list of products that have its seal of recommendation.




The Skin Cancer Foundation's Response to the Release of the FDA's Final Regulations on Sunscreens

FDA Sheds Light on Sunscreens