From Our Team
Summer is now in full swing. The kids are swimming in the pool, playing in the park, and heading out to camp. With nary a cloud in sight, it’s a good time to make a visit to the sunscreen aisle at the local pharmacy. We all know that quality sunscreen is necessary to protect us from the harmful effects of the sun. However, interpreting the labels on different sunscreens can be tricky. A few weeks ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made an announcement about sunscreen requirements that may confuse the issue a little further.
Starting in June 2012, sunscreen manufacturers will be required to have their products labeled with a new phrase: “broad spectrum.” Sunscreens with this label will be tested to ensure that they protect us from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, and that they have a minimum Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15. The phrase “broad spectrum” will be our cue that a given product meets recommended levels of protection.
Many sunscreens on the market today meet these same criteria, but do not have the label “broad spectrum.” Consequently, until labels start to change, we need to read the fine print to protect our families from the summer sun. Some products currently have the approval of the American Academy of Dermatologists (AAD). These products meet the criteria of “broad spectrum,” but don’t have the phrase on the label. Looking for the AAD seal of approval is way to confirm that a sunscreen is right for your family.
In addition, the FDA’s recent announcement stated that the claims of “waterproof,” “sweatproof,” and “sun block” will be removed from sunscreen labels. Sunscreens also will not be able to market that they have SPF greater than 50. These changes are required, because the claims are inaccurate. No product can “block” the sun entirely from our skin. Swimming in water and sweating eventually lessen the effectiveness of sunscreen. And, extremely high SPF claims give consumers the false impression that sunscreen does not need to be reapplied, after some time outdoors. After 2012, sunscreens will be labeled water/sweat resistant and will state if they remain effective for 40 minutes or 80 minutes while swimming or sweating. Until then, sunscreen should be reapplied, at a minimum, every two hours.
Since the changes don’t take place for a year, you may ask: why is the FDA telling us about them now? The announcement is part of the FDA’s formal process to modify regulations. By announcing the changes now, the FDA allows time for public comment and gives sunscreen manufacturers a year to get their products tested and to prepare new labels for their products. Some manufacturers may comply with the requirements before they become official. Keep your eyes open. We may see more “broad spectrum” labels in the coming months.
Regardless of label changes, the American Academy of Dermatologists (AAD) recommends that adults and children:
Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, when possible. Seek shade. The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If your shadow is shorter than you are, it’s time to seek shade. Check your birthday suit on your birthday. If you notice anything changing, growing or bleeding on your skin, see a dermatologist. Skin cancer is very treatable when caught early. With quality sunscreen and these recommendations, your family can enjoy a healthy summer and avoid negative consequences from sun exposure.
For more information on family skin health and sun safety visit these websites:
American Academy of Dermatology: http://www.kidsskinhealth.org/
The American Academy of Pediatrics: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-play/pages/Sun-Safety.aspx
The United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Sun Wise Program: http://www.epa.gov/sunwise/
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