Summer has a new set of rules. Effective June 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations for over-the-counter sunscreens will change the way you prep for days spent in the sun. Even the name is changing—manufacturers can no longer identify products as “sunblock” or claim sunscreens as “waterproof” and “sweatproof.” Now, only the term “water resistant” may be used on labeling.
Why the label changes? By changing the way sunscreens are tested and marketed, the FDA is looking to achieve a single standard of safety and effectiveness, so people can choose the right sun protection for themselves and their families.
UVA, UVB, SPF, Broad Spectrum—what do they all really mean anyway? Below, two New York-based pharmacists—Uday Dave of the West Nyack Target store and Gule Rahi of the College Point Target store—clued us in. Here’s all you need to know.
1. Products that do not pass the new ”Broad Spectrum” testing requirements or have a SPF value less than 15 are required to include a warning that states, “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.”
2. Broad Spectrum sunscreens can include a label that states that using the product “as directed with other sun protection measures decreases the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging caused by the sun.”
3. Only the term “water resistant” may now be used on labeling.
4. Labels must include the duration of water resistance provided by the product in two time periods: 40 minutes or 80 minutes.
5. Products that claim to provide sun protection at a value higher than SPF 50 may only be labeled as SPF 50+ and not with a numerical SPF value higher than 50. There is no compelling evidence that an SPF greater than 50 provides better protection than an SPF of 50.
Is sunscreen really as important as they say?
Uday Dave: Yes! Spending time outdoors exposes us to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. UVA rays can penetrate the middle layer of your skin, while UVB rays primarily reach the outer layer of your skin. Sunburn is a sign of short-term overexposure, while premature aging and skin cancer are side effects of prolonged UV exposure. It can take years after sun exposure for the more serious effects like premature aging and skin cancer to occur. So it is especially important to start using sun protection, like sunscreen, from an early age and make it a part of your outdoor routine.
What is the relation of SPF values and actual time spent in the sun?
Gule Rahi: SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. It is a calculated number that determines how long you can stay in the sun without burning. For example, SPF 15 means you can stay out in the sun 15 times longer than if you were out in the sun with no protection at all. But it’s important to recognize that the effectiveness of a sunscreen is affected by factors such as timing and reapplication.
What are some no-brainer sun safety tips and some not-so-obvious tips?
UD: UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Plan your outdoor activities with this in mind and use sunscreen. Remember that you are affected by UV radiation from the sun on cloudy days just as much as on sunny days. Use extra caution near water, snow and sand because they reflect UV rays and increase your chance of exposure.
GR: All sunscreens have to be reapplied every two hours if you’re sweating or playing in water. Another tip is to check expiration date on sunscreen packaging because older sunscreen loses its effectiveness.
What are a few safe ways to achieve a healthy glow?
GR: Indoor tanning is just as risky as tanning outdoors, but there are many options to achieve a healthy glow without exposing yourself to UV rays. Sunless tanning lotions and creams and spray tans can help gradually build a tan. And makeup fanatics can try bronzers and illuminators to get a great vacation glow without going anywhere!Infographic courtesy : A Bullseye View