What You Should Know About Sunscreen Before Slathering It On

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You may have heard the buzz about the new FDA regulations on sunscreen that go into effect this summer, but if not, here’s the 411 on the changes you’ll care most about, and what to keep in mind before you slather on your SPF and hit the pool or beach this summer (especially since most of the products on the shelves currently may not have been held to these standards) :

  • Sunscreens will now be tested for their ability to protect you from both UVB and UVA rays. The SPF number previously only applied to UVB protection. If a product offers sufficient protection from both the cancer-causing rays and the aging rays, then it can be labeled “Broad Spectrum”. If it’s not labeled “Broad Spectrum”, skip it.
  • Products can no longer claim to be sweatproof, waterproof or sunblock because these claims can’t be backed up. Instead, products can be labeled water resistant and they will also state if they are water resistant for 40 minutes or 80 minutes, so you’ll know exactly when to reapply. I kinda love this, it’s so much more specific.
  • Products must have an broad spectrum of at least SPF 15 to claim that they reduce your risk of skin cancer or early skin aging.
  • Though not part of this year’s regulation changes, the FDA is going to take a closer look at spray sunscreens. Though these are super convenient, it’s hard to know if you’re applying the recommended amount in order to get the level of SPF protection the package claims to provide. If you want to be sure that you’re getting the protection listed on the label, for now, stick with a sunscreen lotion.
  • The FDA may also cap SPF levels at 50 instead of allowing the SPF 100+ products since they haven’t been able to prove that you do truly get better/longer protection from an SPF that high. I personally stay away from these really high SPFs because they usually contain more chemicals, but won’t necessarily protect you any better.
  • Powders and wipes as sunscreen delivery methods may also not be eligible for FDA approval in the future — testing is being done on their effectiveness, so you might want to steer clear of those if you are looking for quality protection you can depend on.
  • None of these regulations change the basic rules of sunscreen use, which are: Reapply every two hours, use a shot glass-sized dollop of sunscreen to cover your body and use a teaspoon full for your face.

For more scoop on these changes, check out this helpful post from Dr. Claudia Aguirre, the International Dermal Institute’s Scientific Communications Manager or consult the FDA’s page about the new regulations.


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