• The word “sunblock” will no longer be allowed on labels, since this implies that the product blocks out all UV rays.
• Only sunscreens that protect equally against UVA (aging) rays and UVB (burning) rays can be labeled “broad spectrum.”
• Sunscreens with SPF of 15 or higher can claim that they prevent sunburn, sun damage, and skin cancer. Sunscreens with SPF less than 15 will be required to carry a warning that they haven’t been shown to prevent skin cancer or aging.
• Sunscreens will not be able to call themselves waterproof or sweatproof. This is because no sunscreen can be completely budge-proof under water. They can be labeled as water-resistant; if so, they’ll need to indicate how long (40 or 80 minutes) you can swim or sweat before the protection wears off.
• In addition, the FDA is proposing a maximum SPF of 50. Sunscreens that have SPF values higher than 50 would be labeled as SPF 50+. This is because there’s no scientific proof that a higher SPF provides more protection from skin cancer and aging compared to products with SPF 50. The agency is also taking a closer look at sunscreen sprays to evaluate how well they protect, as well as the safety of inhaling the mist.
While these guidelines are a step in the right direction, the labeling is still not as informative and helpful as labels in Europe and Asia, which have rating systems that help sunscreen users compare the degree of UVA protection between products. The FDA should also take a closer look at the safety of current sunscreen ingredients, and speed up their review and approval of newer ingredients with better UVA protection as well as less irritation and potential toxicity.
For more information on the change in sunscreen labeling, visit the American Academy of Dermatology.