Safer Sunscreens: New Requirements Set By FDA
From our wellness partner, Cleveland Clinic
In an effort to improve the safety and efficacy of sunscreen products sold in the U.S. and limit misleading claims, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration officially released a new set of requirements that sunscreen manufacturer’s must begin to follow when making and marketing their products. No more claims of “waterproof” or “sweat proof” (thee claims are overstated). No agonizing over SPFs higher than 50 (there is no sufficient data to show that products with SPF values higher than 50 provide greater protection). And if a manufacturer wants to slap a “broad spectrum” claim on the label, first the product will need to pass a test that proves it does indeed protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Some manufacturers will begin to incorporate these mandates right away, while others may wait until the official ruling kicks in the summer of 2012.
So what’s a sun-savvy consumer to do in the meantime? Dermatologist John Anthony, M.D. of Cleveland Clinic’s Strongsville Family Health and Surgery Center weighs in with these helpful tips about choosing the best sun protection:
• The jury is still out on how chemical sunscreens with ingredients such as oxybenzone, Vitamin A (retinol), and PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid) affect human health. But Dr. Anthony says that if you’re looking to avoid chemical sunscreens, choose a mineral-based one instead since these use physical blockers such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Because mineral sunscreens in spray form create nanoparticles that can be absorbed into the lungs, play it safe and use mineral-based creams and lotions instead of sprays.
• Look for sunscreens that block both ultraviolet A rays (UVA rays contribute to photo-aging and may cause skin cancer) and UVB rays (the ones that cause those red sunburns that blister).
• Choose a middle-of-the road sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 to 50. Any lower and you really limit the amount of time you can spend in the sun before getting burned by UVB rays (roughly 30 minutes) and needing to reapply. Any higher and Dr. Anthony says you risk thinking that you’ve got so much protection you need not reapply every two hours or after swimming, the standard recommendation. Be smart and always reapply sunscreen after swimming or exercising.
• Get sun-sensible: If you can avoid being in the sun during primetime sun hours — from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. — do. If not, wear a hat and protective clothing, and seek out the shade, says Dr. Anthony. “Sunscreen isn’t a bulletproof vest against sun damage. It’s just one tool that we can use to help protect us.”