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What you should know about the new sunscreen labeling guidelines.

Posted on: March 4th, 2012 by California Skin Institute

Local dermatologic surgeon Greg Morganroth, president of the California Skin Institute, wants people to pay attention to the latest information from the FDA regarding sunscreens. The FDA’s recent guidelines for manufacturers of sunscreen products highlighted the importance of paying attention to labeling—and going beyond manufacturers’ claims. “The more knowledge we have about the products we use, the more effectively we can take care of ourselves,” he says. “The FDA’s announcement highlighted what to look for with sunscreen products to protect ourselves from sunburn, skin cancer and early skin aging.” Dr. Morganroth offers the following summary of the new guidelines and what they mean for you:

1. Sunscreen products that offer only UVB protection—and don’t specifically state they protect against both UVA and UVB—don’t provide consumers with adequate protection against sunburn that causes skin cancer and early skin aging.* Make sure the product states that it protects against both UVA and UVB.* In the future products will be labeled “Broad Spectrum” to indicate they offer protection for both UVA and UVB.*

2. To be effective, sunscreen must have an SPF value of 15 or greater.*

3. There are no products that truly are “waterproof or “sweat-proof”—in fact, the FDA ruled manufacturers will no longer be able to use these terms in the future (Summer 2012).* Instead, products will be rated for the length of their “water resistance” as either 40 or 80 minutes.* The advice for consumers is that no matter what the label says, reapply sunscreen after you have been in the water or exercising and at least every two hours otherwise.*

4. Products will not be able to claim that they are a “sunblock.”* The FDA says that no sunscreen available completely blocks sun exposure.* For consumers, this means you should use additional forms of protection when out in the sun, such as hats and clothing that help block sun exposure.*

5. Consumers cannot rely on SPF factors higher than “50” to protect them better.* According to the FDA, products with an SPF greater than 50 have not been proven to protect skin any longer or better than SPFs with a value of 50.*

Dr. Morganroth points out that skin cancers make up nearly half of all cancers diagnosed in the U.S., affecting one in five people over their lifetimes.* Sun protection measures should be combined with regular screening by a trained dermatologist at least annually.* (If cost is an obstacle, check with local hospitals or the American Academy of Dermatology database for free screening programs. El Camino Hospital’s Cancer Center also offers free screenings every Wednesday afternoon.) If a skin cancer is found, make sure you consider the best options for treatment. Mohs Surgery has been shown to have the highest cure rate.*

To learn more about the signs of skin cancer, visit:

*Individual results may vary and are not guaranteed.