7. Labels Can Lie
Horrifying but true: The FDA doesn’t regulate sunscreens, meaning manufacturers aren’t legally required to prove the claims on their labels. They can use words like waterproof, all-day protection, and broad spectrum without any evidence to back up their assertions. No wonder sun lovers are lulled into a false sense of protection!
“Overblown claims on the bottle lead you to believe you’re covered,” says Sonya Lunder, M.P.H., a senior analyst at the Environmental Working Group. “You may put on a ‘waterproof’ sunscreen promising ‘all-day protection’ and assume, incorrectly, that you don’t need to reapply. In reality, you need to reapply every two hours and each time you get out of the water.”
8. The SPF Number Doesn’t Mean Much
Conventional wisdom suggests that SPF 30 will give you twice the protection of SPF 15, and SPF 100 will offer twice the coverage of SPF 50. If only.
“The sky-high numbers are a marketing ploy,” says Gilchrest.
Reapply sunscreen every two hours and each time you get out of the water.
“People think they’re doing themselves a favor by using high SPF, but the difference is incremental. SPF 15 filters out 93 percent of UVB rays; SPF 30 protects against 97 percent; SPF 50, 98 percent; and SPF 100, 99 percent–and that’s only if you apply enough of it.”
Don’t fall for the numbers game. When the FDA releases its new guidelines, it’s expected to include a ban on any SPF over 50 because the numbers can be misleading. Until then, use this simple rule from Gilchrest: If you burn easily, go for SPF 50 and apply it generously; otherwise, there’s no need to go above SPF 30.