It is estimated that one person out of every five will develop skin cancer. That’s a pretty significant number and a very important reason to use sunscreen while out and about. But, just any sunscreen won’t do the trick. In a 2011 ruling the FDA has cracked down on marketing gimmicks and now require sunscreen labeling to be more detailed and accurate.
Ultra Violet (UV) radiation from the sun and artificial sources (such as from tanning beds) is classified as a carcinogen (cancer causing substance), by both the US Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization.
There are two kinds of rays and both of them can be dangerous.
- UVA rays (or aging rays) can pass through windows and can prematurely age your skin and cause wrinkles and age spots.
- UVB rays (or burning rays) are blocked by window glass and are the primary cause of sunburn.
Sunscreen labeled “Broad Spectrum” means it will protect against both UVA and UVB rays, and with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) value of 15 or higher it can not only protect against sunburn, but if used as directed with other sun protection measures, it can reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging.
If a label doesn’t indicate “Broad Spectrum” and has an SPF of less than 15 it must have an alert stating it may only help prevent against sunburn and will not protect against cancer and premature aging.
SPF values higher than 50 can only be listed as “50+”, as ratings higher than SPF 50 show no significant added benefit and include more chemicals. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using sunscreen with at least a SPF rating of 30.
No longer can manufacturers claim sunscreen is “water proof” or “sweat proof”. If the sunscreen has a water resistant feature, it must be labeled as either “Water Resistant” (meaning it may be effective in the water for up to 40 minutes) or “Very Water Resistant” (meaning it may be effective in the water up to 80 minutes). After the indicated time it must be reapplied.
As well, manufacturers cannot identify these products as “Sunblocks”, as no application can effectively block 100% of the sun’s UV rays.