Decoding the New FDA Rules on Sunscreen

I’ve been waiting literally my whole life for this. Thirty-three years after first proposing stricter requirements for sunscreen labels, the FDA announced that it’s putting them into effect this year. Henceforth, you’ll be able to better decipher which lotions and potions provide the best protection against the sun and its aging damaging rays. Here’s what you need to know about the new rules:


  • Sunscreens must protect equally against UVB and UVA rays to market themselves as “broad spectrum.” Science lesson: UVB rays cause burning, UVA rays cause wrinkling, and both cause cancer.
  • Any product with an SPF 2 to SPF 14 must include a warning that the product has not been shown to help prevent skin cancer or early skin aging. (Frankly, anything below an SPF 15 doesn’t really deserve you, anyway!)
  • Companies can no longer make claims using words such as “sunblock,” “waterproof,” and “sweatproof”—the FDA has concluded that such claims are false. Instead, look on labels for the number of minutes for which the product is water resistant.

No matter what sunscreen you choose, wear copious amounts and apply often. I say SPF 30 is the new SPF 15, and with the latest whisper-light formulas that don’t leave a white, masklike residue (I like the Coola line), why wouldn’t you up your coverage? There’s always self-tanners!

Read more of Elizabeth’s musings at Beauty Bets.


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