Q&A answers questions on sunscreen labels

Q. I know the FDA has changed the requirements on sunscreen labels. How do I help patients understand the information on the new labels?

A. Sunscreen bottles with the new labels are on the shelves now! You can help take the confusion out of selecting an effective sunscreen by educating your patients about how to read the new sunscreen labels.

On the label, you’ll see whether the sunscreen:

  1. Is broad spectrum, which means the sunscreen protects against UVB and UVA rays and helps prevent skin cancer and sunburn.
  2. Has a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. While SPF 15 is the FDA’s minimum recommendation for protection against skin cancer and sunburn, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends choosing a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.
  3. Has a Skin Cancer/Skin Aging Alert in the Drug Facts section of the label, which means the sunscreen will only prevent sunburn and will not reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging.
  4. Is water resistant for up to 40 minutes or 80 minutes, which means the sunscreen provides protection while swimming or sweating up to the time listed on the label.

    Sunscreen manufacturers now are banned from claiming that a sunscreen is “waterproof” or “sweat proof,” as the FDA has determined that those terms are misleading.

With the new regulations, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has clearly defined the testing required for a sunscreen to be labeled as “broad spectrum.” For a sunscreen to carry the claim that it can help prevent skin cancer and early skin aging in addition to sunburn, it must offer both broad spectrum coverage and an SPF of 15 or higher. If not, the label will carry the Skin Cancer/Skin Aging Alert.

The FDA has not yet ruled on:

  • The upper limit cap for SPF.
  • Safety and effectiveness of sunscreen sprays.

Continue to encourage your patients to select a water resistant, broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher that is in a form that they will most likely apply and reapply.

Email the Member to Member editor at members@aad.org. 

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