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Be Sunscreen Savvy

The FDA has finally taken action against labeling and claims made by sunscreen manufacturers. Guidelines from 1978 have changed after review of the abundance research.  Manufacturers are now held accountable to provide and implement new testing to assure the reliability of their SPF claims.

To comply they will be subject to lab and humans skin testing using standardized sun simulators. They will also have to scientifically justify their higher SPF ratings. No longer can they claim an SPF of over 50.  Companies will also have to do away with misleading labeling such as complete sun block, waterproof and sweat proof, as well as all day protection, since there really is no such thing!

The other issue with high SPF rated sunscreens is that often they only block the UVB rays (ultraviolet B), which cause sunburns. However that is only half of the spectrum, UVA rays (ultraviolet A), the tanning rays also damage skin by causing premature aging and cancer. Now the FDA will require manufacturers to provide information on how much UVA protection they offer too. Even with all these regulation still user error can be one of the biggest problems with sunscreens. Most of us do not use enough nor do we apply it often enough.

Key tips to remember before going out in the sun:

  • Try to limit your exposure during peak hours between 10AM-3PM
  • Apply it before you go out so it can absorb into your skin
  • Look for broad spectrum protection against both UVA tanning rays and UVB burning rays
  • Don’t be fooled by high SPF, use SPF 30-50, since 50 is maximum claim now allowed
  • No such thing as all day block
  • No such thing as waterproof, the claim is only water resistant for either 40 minutes or 80 minutes and then you need to reapply
  • Use a lot, a shot glass full and reapply frequently

Australia had one of the highest skin cancer rates in the world prior to their public health campaign called “Slip, Slap, Slop.”  Do as the Aussies do slip on a shirt, slap on a hat and slop on a lot of sunscreen!

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© Dr. Leigh Vinocur, 2022.