Beginning in 2013, you’ll see several changes to sunscreen labels. These changes, which are required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), will provide you with more information about what a sunscreen can do.
Here are some key changes you’ll see:
Skin cancer prevention versus sunburn protection
On the label, you’ll see whether a sunscreen can:
- Help prevent skin cancer and sunburn.
- Only help prevent sunburn.
That’s thanks to new FDA testing requirements. For a label to claim that a sunscreen can help prevent skin cancer and sunburn, it will have to pass two tests.
The first test is the broad-spectrum test. This test shows whether a sunscreen can protect your skin from the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. Both rays can cause skin cancer.
The second test is the sun protection factor (SPF) test. This test shows how well a sunscreen protects you from sunburn. Like today, you’ll see the SPF as a number, such as SPF 30. All sunscreen must offer some SPF. The minimum is SPF 2.
New warning: For a sunscreen to carry the claim that it can prevent skin cancer and sunburn, it must offer both: 1) broad-spectrum coverage and 2) an SPF of 15 or higher. If the sunscreen does not offer both, the label will have to carry this warning:
“This product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging.”
The FDA will ban companies from claiming that a sunscreen is “waterproof” or “sweat proof.” This is simply not possible.
You’ll now see the term “water resistant.” To make this claim, the product must pass another test. This test shows how long a sunscreen keeps its SPF when a person goes in the water or sweats. The label also must state how long the water resistance lasts, either 40 or 80 minutes.
New warning: If a sunscreen is not water resistant, the label must carry a warning. This warning will tell you to use a water-resistant sunscreen if you are likely to sweat or be in water.
Makeup and moisturizers
You’ll see the new claims on makeup and moisturizers, too — provided the product undergoes and passes the FDA tests.
The American Academy of Dermatology provided scientific information to the FDA as it was developing these rules. Dermatologists believe that these new rules will help Americans reduce their risk for skin cancer. You will find more information about the Academy’s role by reading "American Academy of Dermatology Association welcomes new FDA sunscreen rules."