Posts Tagged ‘sunburn’

Hot Off the Press: Newest FDA Sunscreen Regulations

A few months ago I wrote about changes that the FDA had proposed to help consumers understand what type of coverage a sunscreen had. I summarized it in my sunscreen blog here.

A quick summary is that UVB causes sunburn and UVA is more associated with early aging. Both cause skin cancer. In 2007, they proposed that sunscreens should display two parameters SPF (which refers to UVB protection) and a 4 star system (to refer to UVA protection). Well, this year, they decided not to use the 4 star system because they thought it would be too complicated for consumers. I didn’t think it was that complicated but I guess they wanted an easier label.

So now sunscreens have 3 new rules:

1) They can no longer claim an SPF higher than 50. This is because the FDA reports that there is no evidence that a sunscreen higher than 50 provides any significant increase in coverage from UVB rays.

2) The term “Broad Spectrum” must be added to indicate that there is also UVA coverage. (No stars are required so we won’t know how much UVA coverage there is.)

3) “Broad Spectrum” sunscreen with an SPF between 15 and 50 can make the following claim on the label: “reduces the risk of skin cancer and premature aging”. Other sunscreens that have an SPF of 2-14 or are not Broad Spectrum can only claim that they help prevent sunburn.

These rules were announced last week and companies that make sunscreens will have until next summer to change the labels. I think this is a good change but I would have loved the 4 star system. Regardless, I think it will make sunscreen labels more clear which is always a good thing.

Sunscreen 101

Do you know what SPF means? We see different SPF values on sunscreens and assume higher is better but what does it exactly mean? Well, to understand the SPF value, you must first understand sunlight. Sunlight is mainly composed of visible light and ultraviolet light. Visible light is the light that can be separated into the colors of the rainbow with a prism…remember that science experiment from 3rd grade? Visible light is generally considered harmless and doesn’t damage our skin. Ultraviolet light, on the other hand, is VERY important because it can damage our skin. Ultraviolet light is separated into UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVC doesn’t reach the earth’s surface so only UVA and UVB are important for our skin.

UVB causes sunburns and skin cancers. SPF refers to the amount of protection you get from harmful UVB rays. So an SPF of 15 blocks 93% of the sun’s UVB rays. An SPF of 30 blocks 97%, and an SPF of 45 blocks 98% of UVB rays.

UVA penetrates deeper into our skin than UVB and is responsible for aging and wrinkles so UVA is another “bad guy” for our skin. In the past we had no way to know how much UVA protection a product offered. We could look for the terms “broad spectrum coverage” or “UVA/UVB protection” but that didn’t tell us how effective the UVA coverage was. Unlike the SPF value for UVB, there was no grading system for UVA coverage.

Well now the FDA has decided to offer consumers a way to measure UVA coverage. This is called the PFA, but instead of a number there will be “+” signs to compare UVA coverage. The range will be 1+ to 4+, with 4+ offering the highest UVA coverage. This new PFA labeling will be required on all sunscreens in upcoming years. So now you know everything you need to know about sunscreen…just don’t forget to wear it!

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