Who? The Food and Drug Administration aka FDA
What? After 30 years, the FDA changed sunscreen regulations requiring companies to prove that they protect against both UVB and UVA rays and to adopt new labels designed to ease consumers' ability to choose a sunscreen.Specifically, all those broad-spectrum claims will have to be backed up. Sunscreens with a SPF of 15 or greater who pass the tests outlined by the FDA can broadcast via starbursts and advertising dollars that their formulations can help reduce the risk of skin cancer and signs of early aging. And if products don't pass the muster, they will have to display warning labels stating that they haven't proven their ability to reduce the aforementioned risks. As for SPF, it's getting capped at 50 since there is not enough scientific evidence proving that higher SPF provides more protection. "You'll never get 100 percent coverage from a sunscreen, so these changes take away the false sense of security," Ronald Moy, M.D., president of the American Academy of Dermatology told Ladies' Home Journal.
In addition, companies will have to say sayonara to the terms "sweat-proof" and "water-proof" unless they pass a water resistance test. "Water resistant claims must have labeling that includes the amount of time a person can get sun protection when swimming or sweating," Janet Woodcock, MD, director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, told NPR.
When? Just this Tuesday; however, discussions about changing sunscreen labels have occurred since 2007. And even though these regulations were enacted this week, the Wall Street Journal points out that you won't notice a difference in sunscreen packaging for a year (this deadline applies to large companies, such as Coppertone and Neutrogena) or two (this is the deadline for companies that have sales less than $25,000 a year).
Why? Current labeling reflects the science that was available three decades ago. (Talk about an 80s revival.) This change is significant because it makes sunscreen standards reflect the current research available.
How? If you want to make sure that you are getting the best protection before these new labeling requirements take effect in 2012, take these steps:
For more information about the best sunscreens to protect you and your family from UVA and UVB rays as well as buying and application tips, see our full report on sunscreens.