What the FDA’s New Sunscreen Labeling Rules Mean for You

The FDA has recently released new sunscreen labeling rules. Here’s what important for you to know:

1. Sunscreen vs. sunblock: Only “sunscreen” can appear on the label. “Sunblock” will no longer be allowed since they can’t block the sun or prevent skin cancer and aging.

2. Broad spectrum: Look for sunscreens labeled ”broad spectrum” which means it protects against both skin-burning, cancer-causing UVB rays and skin-again, cancer-causing UVA rays.

3. SPF of 15 or higher: Only sunscreens with an SPF 15 or higher can claim to reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging.

4. Water Resistant: Sunscreens can no longer claim to be “waterproof” or “sweatproof.” A “water resistant” claim must specify whether it provides 40 or 80 minutes of protection.

Photo credit: FCC, TomPurves

There is No Such Thing as Waterproof Sunscreen

Have you ever applied a waterproof sunscreen, gone for a swim or a jog, and ended up with a sunburn? That’s because there is no such thing as “waterproof” sunscreen; it’s a misleading term that overstates the product’s effectiveness, and the FDA is putting a stop to it.

Beginning soon, sunscreen manufacturers will no longer be able to use the words “waterproof” or “sweatproof” on their products. Instead, they will be labeled ”water-resistant” and specify either 40 or 80 minutes of protection. Moreover, if sunscreens are not water-resistant, they will have to carry a warning stating so.

Photo credit: FCC JunCTionS

Do Spray Sunscreens Really Work?

Do spray sunscreens really work?

Yes, if used properly. That’s because some people apply spray sunscreen on their skin the way grandmothers apply Aqua Net hairspray to their beehives — tightly closed eyes and lips, swirling arms, and chemical cloudbursts. Done this way, most of the sunscreen ends up in the air, not on your skin.

Here’s how to properly apply spray sunscreens:

1. Hold the bottle 6 inches from your skin.

2. Spray evenly.

3. Rub it in.

Don’t forget to cover your hands, feet, ears, and around your hairline.

Photo credit: FCC, joccay.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Your Kid’s Sunscreen

A mom came into my office the other day complaining of acne. She had switched from her regular sunscreen to her kid’s sunscreen thinking it would be gentler on her face. But her acne got worse.

That’s because kid’s sunscreens are meant to be extra protective, so their ingredients are more likely to clog pores in adults, leading to acne.

I told her to use an adult “non-comedogenic” or non-pimple forming facial sunscreen such as Neutrogena Clear Face Liquid Lotion Sunblock SPF 55 or Aveeno Continuous Protection Sunblock for the Face, SPF 30.

Save the kid’s sunscreen for little Olivia. I also don’t recommend using her Desitin. But that’s for another post.

Photo credit: E-13ss

Should I Get a Base Tan Before Vacation?

I just got back from a conference in Hawaii. Did I get a base tan first? No. Why? Because it does more harm than good.

Tanned skin is damaged skin. Even if the base tan helps prevent sunburn, you had to damage your skin to get that tan in the first place. Using artificial tanning to rush a tan before you get on your flight can be even more damaging.

Go to Hawaii, swim with the dolphins, lounge by the pool. Cover up, wear sunscreen, sit in the shade. Your skin needs a vacation too.

Photo: J Benabio, MD

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New FDA Guidelines on Sunscreens

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. -Confucius

This is certainly true of sunscreens. “Broad spectrum, UVA, UVB, avobenzone, oxybenzone, parsol, sensitive skin, titanium dioxide, SPF 15, 30, 45, 50, 55, 60, 70, 75, 100, 100+, waterproof, sweatproof, spray, cream, lotion, antioxidant…”

We spend about $700 million in sunscreens every year, and many people don’t have a clue as to what’s good or bad, or a waste of money. The Food and Drug Administration has been meaning to help you out with this problem for a while now. Actually for over 30 years (who says nothing gets done in government?). The F.D.A. has made a final decision on sunscreen labels. They’ve sought to make labels simple and accurate to help you choose the right one:

1. The sunscreen must protect against both UVA and UVB rays; that is, it must be broad spectrum.

2. To be labelled as “protecting against skin cancer,” the sunscreen must be an SPF of at least 15. The labels will likely be capped at SPF 50 because SPFs greater than 50 seem to be of little additional benefit.

3. Sunscreens can no longer be labelled as “waterproof” or “sweat proof,” as neither is physically possible, therefore, rendering the claim “misleading.” Sunscreens will be labelled as effective in water for 40 minutes or 80 minutes which is accurate and much more useful.

This simple system should help consumers make better choices, but some say the F.D.A. didn’t go far enough. They did not comment on the safety of various sunscreen ingredients. They have also not loosened up enough to allow for other sunscreens that are widely used in Europe to be sold here in the U.S.

Do you think the F.D.A was too strict or didn’t go far enough?

Photo: Wandering Magpie, Flickr

3 Ways To Prevent Moles on Your Kids

Protect against sun to reduce moles

Do you ever wish you didn’t have so many moles? It might be too late for you, but it doesn’t have to be for your kids. By reducing their sun exposure, you can reduce the number of moles (also called nevi) they develop.

Sunburns and excess sun exposure are triggers for moles to develop. Having lots of moles can be unsightly and increases their risk of developing melanoma later in life. Reducing excess sun will limit the number of moles they have and reduce their risk for melanoma many years from now.

Many of us grew up without good sunscreens (baby oil and iodine anyone?), but you can do so much more for your children.

  • Apply a water-resistant sunscreen with SPF 30 (preferably one with zinc or titanium).
  • Reapply every two hours.
  • Cover them up with clothing (which is great for the beach when even the best sunscreens wash off in the surf).

Many of my patients wish they didn’t have so many moles. By insisting that your kids protect themselves now, you’ll prevent them from being one of those patients later.

Photo: Atiretoo, Flickr