New FDA Guidelines for Sunscreen Safety

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Though summer is waning, the need to protect against excessive sun exposure continues. The good news is by next year it may be easier to determine which sunscreen products are the most effective.

Earlier this summer, the Food and Drug Administration released new guidelines regarding the claims and information provided by sunscreen manufacturers. The guidelines will take effect for major sunscreen manufacturers in 2012. Small manufacturers will have additional time to phase in labeling guidelines. Current guidelines have not been updated in more than 20 years, while the incidence of melanoma and other skin cancers linked to sun exposure have increased dramatically.

The new guidelines will require sun protection formula labeling to have proven effectiveness against ultraviolet rays such as UVA and UVB to claim protection against skin cancers. Any product with an SPF of 14 or lower will not be able to include labeling that claims it may reduce skin cancer and protect against wrinkling from sun exposure.

Sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher may claim to protect against sunburn and reduce the risk of skin cancer and early aging from sun exposure. These products will also display additional disclaimers that the product must be used as directed, reapplied appropriately and used in combination with other skin protection measures.

Sunscreen product labels will no longer be able to claim they are “water-proof” or “sweat-proof,” or be described as a “sunblock.” Water-resistant sunscreen labels will need to state how long the product will remain on the skin after contact with water.

FDA officials say these new guidelines will give consumers

more accurate information on sunscreen safety, reapplication guide-lines and the length of time sunscreens are effective. Learn more at

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