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FDA Announces New Sunscreen Rules

FDA Announces New Sunscreen Rules

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.

Read more: Aging, Cancer, Health, Skin Care, Smart Shopping, ,

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.

39 comments

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1:51AM PDT on Jun 28, 2012

Very good article.

1:38PM PDT on Jul 10, 2011

I have heard many conflicting opinions on the UV rays.
Recently, I read an article that said UVA rays are the longest rays and do the most damage to skin. The same article claimed UVB rays stimulate Vitamin D production and cell regeneration.
There are too many different opinions. Where is the science?
I would love to know the truth.

4:56AM PDT on Jun 22, 2011

Thanks for the article.

4:10PM PDT on Jun 21, 2011

I don't believe this article is completely correct. UVA rays burn. They go through glass. UVB rays protect you and produce vitamin D. Glass filters them. Personally, I don't bake chemicals into my skin.

3:46PM PDT on Jun 21, 2011

This is good to hear. But I wish they would make it ocean-friendly too!

5:34AM PDT on Jun 21, 2011

Thank you

3:56AM PDT on Jun 21, 2011

Easier to sit in the shade or cover up.

4:19PM PDT on Jun 20, 2011

I still refuse to use any mainstream sunscreens and usually avoid them altogether.

It's my personal belief that sunscreens, lotions, and tanning oils are what's causing the cancer in the first place.

Funny how locations with the highest use of those products have the highest level of skin cancer, while the lowest rates of skin cancer are usually found in places where the products are almost non-existent.

6:38AM PDT on Jun 20, 2011

It's one step in the right direction - manufacturers have long taken their customers for a ride with all the exaggerated claims about the beneficial effects of their products. Pity there is a full year for manufacturers to comply - this means that we have several more years of sunscreening products with misleading information on the shelves. Please continue with the educational campaign so that consumers shall be aware of the pitfalls, particularly in the case of the more expensive lotions with SPFs in excess of 50.

5:25AM PDT on Jun 20, 2011

coconut oil on red skin. It's oil. are you sure? I use vinegar.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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