Goodness. After a mere 33 years of consideration, the Food and Drug Administration has decided to firm up the rules for sunscreen manufactures. The new regulations will effect how sunscreen can be labeled, and are intended to help clarify the often-confusing claims of sun protection.
According to an article in The New York Times, more than two million people in the United States are treated annually for the two most common types of skin cancer (basal cell and squamous cell), while more than 68,000 receive a diagnosis of the most deadly form of the disease, melanoma. Sunscreens have not been shown to prevent the initial case of basal cell carcinoma, but they delay reoccurrences of basal cell and have been shown to prevent squamous cell and melanoma.
Among the new guidelines:
• To be designated as “broad spectrum,” sunscreens must protect equally against UVB rays (which cause burning) and UVA rays (which cause wrinkling). Both cause cancer.
• Sunscreen manufacturers will no longer be able to claim that their products are waterproof or sweatproof–such claims are false. (Who knew?!) They will now have to claim the number of minutes for how long the product is water resistant, based on test results.
• Only sunscreens that have a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher will be able to claim that they help prevent sunburn and reduce the risks of skin cancer and early skin aging.
• Any sunscreen that doesn’t have proportional protection or has an SPF of 2 to 14 needs to include a warning that the product has not been shown to help prevent skin cancer or early skin aging.
The new regulations will also standardize the testing used to evaluate UVA protection.
One interesting issue that was not decided upon was whether or not products with SPF numbers higher than 50 should be banned. Dr. Warwick L. Morison, a professor of dermatology at Johns Hopkins University and chairman of the photobiology committee for the Skin Cancer Foundation, said in the Times article that he was disappointed that the F.D.A. failed to ban SPF numbers higher than 50 because such products expose people to more irritating sunscreen ingredients without meaningful added protection.
The new regulations will become effective in one year.