Updated Labels on Sunscreen

14 Aug

Sunscreen comes in many forms.

Even though we may be coming to a close on summer (I think everyone is ready to get fall on a roll), the FDA has implemented new labeling laws for sunscreens. To be honest, we should be wearing sunscreen every day, not just sunny days in the summer!

So what’s changing?

Well, you can say goodbye to SPF 100, because honestly, that’s a bunch of bull. The highest a sunscreen can legally claim now is SPF 50+. We’re protected 95% with an SPF of 30, only increasing in tiny increments after that. Labels in the past of SPF 100 have given us false ideas of 100% protection. More is not always better. The key to protection is applying every couple of hours, depending on your tendency to burn.

Not only is there a max claim on SPF, but the types of rays that are being protected need to be labeled as such. There are three types, but the two we are concerned about here are UVA and UVB. To put these in perspective, UVA rays are the ‘aging’ rays, those that penetrate deep into the skin and cause our collagen and elastin to break down, thus creating loose, wrinkling skin later in life. You can also thank UVA rays for pigmentation and skin cancer. Yay. UVB rays are the ‘burning rays’ that penetrate just enough to create burns and inflammation in the skin, which is also a factor in skin aging. If a suncreen offers protection from both types of rays, it must be labeled broad-spectrum (all suncreens should be broad-spectrum in my opinion.)

So you’re hanging out at the beach all day and you think you’re covered with your waterproof sunblock of SPF 100, right?

You are SO wrong.

There is no such thing as ‘waterproof’ and ‘sunblock’. Sunscreens can only be water-resistant (or very-water resistant, but you probably won’t see this label on sunscreens). What you will find is ‘water-resistant (40 minutes)‘ and ‘water-resistant (80 minutes)‘. So even though your sunscreen holds up in water (and it has to retain the SPF indicated on the label), it’s only for 40-80 minutes.

And it’s not ‘blocking’ the sun, just ‘screening’ it.

Another interesting change is that if a product has a SPF 15, it has to be labeled as a sunscreen, even if it is a moisturizer with sunscreen or makeup with sunscreen. And in the eyes of the FDA, any sunscreen with a SPF 15 is considered a drug. So in the next few months, you may be picking up your foundation that’s labeled as a sunscreen with a drug facts label.

Speaking of drug facts, the label has to explain in plain vocabulary what exactly it is protecting you from. If your sunscreen is NOT broad-spectrum, it must say:

“Skin cancer/Skin aging alert: Spending time in the sun increases your risk of skin cancer and early skin aging. This product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging.”

On the other hand, if it is broad-spectrum:

“If used as directed with other sun protection measures (see directions), decreases the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging caused by the sun.”

These changes may seem confusing, but they are put in place to make sure you understand how much protection your are getting. This is for YOUR benefit. I can’t tell you how many times clients think they are protected all day with their SPF 70, or that ‘my sunscreen just didn’t last all day’. It’s not supposed to. You have to reapply. Even if it’s a cloudy day, and you’re just running errands in your car all day, you’re exposed.

So if you’re heading to the beach, or just picking up some more sunscreen, pay attention to the labels. The new laws have probably not hit shelves yet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be more conscious of the protection you’re getting.

And you will still get some color.

Tell me a secret…

Do you wear sunscreen every day? What SPF do you wear? What’s most important to you in a sunscreen?


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