Ugh, I don’t know what half of the words on a sunscreen label mean. What should I look for?
In 2011, the FDA issued brand new requirements and regulations for sunscreen labels. (Can you believe that before this ruling, there were very few guidelines in place?) Here’s what changed and what you should pay attention to:
Only the term sunscreen can be used on packaging. Formulas that use titanium dioxide and zinc oxide were sometimes referred to as sunblock in the past, but the FDA determined this overstated their effectiveness.
Water- and sweatproof are false claims. Instead, labels now say water-resistant and must indicate whether they remain effective for 40 or 80 minutes during swimming or sweating based on tests.
Only sunscreens with SPF 15 or more can claim to reduce the risk of skin cancer and early aging. Sunscreens with a lower SPF or that aren’t deemed broad-spectrum can only state that they help to prevent sunburn.
All sunscreens labeled broadspectrum are proven to protect skin from UVB (short-wave, skin-burning) and UVA (long-wave, aging and cancercausing) rays. This term was previously unregulated.
What’s coming down the pike?
The FDA has proposed regulation (with no timeline for its approval) to cap SPF values at 50, because there’s no sufficient data to show an SPF 75 or 100 provides greater protection.