New FDA rules for sunscreen labels

New FDA rules for sunscreen labels

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By Dr. Ananya Mandal, MDJun 15 2011

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration this Tuesday released new rules that specify sunscreens’ labeling. The rules specify which lotions protect the skin and which do not.

The agency specified that only sunscreens that protect equally against two kinds of the sun’s radiation – UVB and UVA – are to be designated as offering “broad spectrum” protection. UVB rays cause burning, UVA rays cause wrinkling and both types cause cancer experts say.

The new rules would come into effect in a year and would also ban sunscreen manufacturers from claiming their products are waterproof or sweat-proof because such claims are false, officials said. Rather, manufacturers can claim, in minutes, the amount of time the product is water resistant, depending upon test results. Most people towel off after climbing out of a pool or lake, and sunscreen should be reapplied. Even for those who are just sweating in the sun, sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours.

The new rules also provide that only sunscreens with a sun protection factor of at least 15 can state they help prevent sunburn and reduce risks of skin cancer and early skin aging.

Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the agency’s drug center said, “We think this is going to be much easier for the consumer to understand. All they’re [consumers] going to need to do is pick an SPF number and then make sure that it is broad spectrum.”

Dr. Kristen Hook, a pediatric dermatologist with the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital said, “UV-A and UV-B can both play a role in skin cancer development, but I think it’s increasing awareness about the role that UV-A can play, especially in non-melanoma skin cancer development.”

Another label change will affect any sunscreen that claims to have an SPF higher than 50, since the FDA believes there’s no way they can prove it. Now, the labels will read “50+.”


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