Just as the summer heat hit in June the Food and Drug Administration announced new rules for sunscreen labeling. The changes, which go into effect next year, will stop companies from making false claims about the protection that their products offer and help people navigate the confusing world of sunscreens. Using the right products can make a real difference to your health, preventing painful sunburns, premature skin aging and even skin cancer.
First, some facts about the new rules. Current sun protection factor (SPF) ratings often reflect only UVB protection, leaving you exposed to skin damage caused by UVA rays. With the new labels, only sunscreens that protect from both UVA and UVB rays will be permitted to say that they offer "broad spectrum" protection. And no more triple-digit SPFs. The FDA implemented an SPF cap of 50 because there is no evidence that anything higher is actually beneficial. Also only products with at least SPF 15 can claim to ward off sunburn, wrinkles and cancer.
Finally, be on the lookout: sunscreens that do not provide adequate protection against skin cancer will be required to carry prominent warning labels.
So how can you keep your skin healthy?
Dermatologists suggest choosing a “broad spectrum” sunscreen that has an SPF rating of 30 to 50. To maximize effectiveness, apply the sunscreen before sun exposure and reapply every two hours. And don’t skimp! In order to get the SPF advertised, you need to use about two tablespoons. Also keep in mind that the best way to protect your skin is to limit sun exposure – so look for shade and wear protective clothing, especially at the times of day when the sun is hottest.
The National Women’s Health Network applauds the FDA for taking steps to rein in deceptive practices in the $680 million domestic market for sunscreens. When the rules go into effect they’ll make it more likely that you can trust the information on the product label, but you still need to choose a sunscreen this summer! That’s where The Environmental Working Group can help. They have compiled a list of best sunscreens for 2011 which we strongly urge you to use when selecting your summer sun protection.
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