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New Regulations for Sunscreen Labels

The FDA wants to simplify the message consumers are getting about sunscreens so that we clearly understand certain concepts regarding sunscreen, because the improper use of sunscreen can potentially lead to skin cancer.

What is Changing?


UVA rays are major cause of skin cancer, abnormal pigmentation and skin wrinkles.  UVB rays are the rays that burn the skin and can also cause nonmelanoma skin cancer. It is important that both UVA and UVB are blocked.  Only if a product provides full UVA protection as well as UVB protection, then it can claim to offer broad-spectrum protection.  Otherwise, no UVA protection can be claimed at all.


Gone are the days of “waterproof” sunscreen.  Instead, there are two categories:  water-resistant and very water-resistant.  If a sunscreen product was shown to retain it’s labeled SPF value after 40 minutes of water immersion, then it must be labeled “water resistant (40 minutes)”.  If a sunscreen was shown to retain the labeled SPF value after 80 minutes of water immersion, then it must be labeled “water resistant (80 minutes).”


Gone are the days of SPF 100.  No sunscreen can provide 100% UV protection except 100% zinc oxide, which is a thick white paste.  With the new labeling, any SPF higher than 50, can only claim “50+”.

Drug Facts Label.  

The FDA will regulate warnings and claims by sunscreens.  From now on, suncreens that do not offer broad-spectrum protection must state on the back label of packaging:  “Skin cancer/Skin aging alert:  Spending time in the sun increases your risk of skin cancer and early skin aging.  This product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging.”  For sunscreens that do provide broad-spectrum protection can state:  “If used as directed with other sun protection measures, this product decreases the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging caused by the sun.


Any products that claim an SPF of greater than 15 must be registered with the FDA as a drug.  The goal is to provided a common standard for how each sunscreen must be tested. This will also affect makeup that claims SPF coverage.

These are important changes that will impact how you care for you and your family’s skin health. Changes will go into effect December 18th, 2012.

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