New Rules for Sunscreen

Get the scoop on new FDA suncreen regulations set to go in effect next year.
Writer: Rachel Bertone

Summer has finally arrived, and it’s time to dust off that beach bag and stock it with the season’s most important staples. Preparing for your a day at the shore is usually pretty simple—until you arrive in the sunscreen aisle. Faced with hundreds of products, it’s often difficult to pick the product that’s right for your family’s needs.

Starting next year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is taking new measures to help consumers navigate sunscreen labels and understand which products offer the best protection from the sun’s harmful rays. The FDA’s regulations will include strict testing guidelines for sunscreen manufacturers, as well as a new labeling system to accurately reflect the product’s quality of protection.

Sunscreen products that are not "broad spectrum" (offering protection from both UVA and UVB rays) or with an SPF value between 2 and 14 will be now include a warning to consumers that spending time in the sun can increase your risk of skin cancer and premature skin aging. The label will also explain that the product has only been shown to prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging.

Also, sunscreen manufacturers cannot make claims that their products are "waterproof," "sweatproof," or act as "sunblocks." They cannot claim that the sunscreen provides instant protection, or protection for more than two hours without reapplication.

Water resistance claims on the product's label must now tell how much time a consumer can use the product with the declared SPF protection while swimming or sweating. The two times permitted on labels will be 40 minutes or 80 minutes.

Finally, FDA is proposing a regulation that would require sunscreen products that have SPF values higher than 50 to be labeled as “SPF 50+.” FDA does not have adequate data demonstrating that products with SPF values higher than 50 provide additional protection, and the organization wants to avoid giving consumers a false sense of protection against the sun’s rays.

Enjoy your time on the beach, but don’t forget to protect yourself from potentially harmful exposure. Be sure to use broad spectrum sunscreens with an SPF value of 15 or greater, and reapply as directed. Wear wide-brimmed hats and clothing to cover areas exposed to the sun. Also, try limiting your time in the sun, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

For more information on the new FDA regulations, visit fda.gov.