Monday, June 20, 2011

New FDA Sunscreen Guidelines
and a Quick Tip:
How to Make Sure You’re Protected

Last week, the FDA announced new labeling guidelines for sunscreens in the US designed to help ensure that consumers are clear about the sun protection they're getting. Currently, sunscreen has is rated by SPF, which involves only protection from the sun's UVB (burning) rays, and largely ignores UVA rays, which contribute to skin cancer and are responsible for the aging effects of the sun. Though we may see updated labels sooner, by summer 2012 sunscreens labeled "Broad Spectrum" (a term that was, up until now, unregulated) will be required to pass a procedure to measure the product's UVA protection relative to its UVB protection.

Also soon a thing of the past: the terms "waterproof, "sweatproof" and "sunblock". According to the FDA, these terms overstate the effectiveness of such products. Likewise, the FDA is also proposing regulations that would cap SPF ratings at "SPF 50+". According to the FDA, there is not sufficient data to conclude that products with SPF values higher than 50 provide additional protection.

Until new regulations take effect, make sure you're using a true broad spectrum sunscreen. In combination with UVB protectants (homosalate, octyl methoxycinnamate, and oxybenzone are commonly used) one or more of the following UVA absorbers should be listed under "active ingredients":
  • avobenzone (aka. Parsol 1789 or butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane)
  • ecamsule (Mexoryl)
  • titanium dioxide
  • zinc oxide
  • Tinosorb (only available outside of the US)
Of course, the best sunscreen in the world isn't going to protect you if you don't use it correctly. Here's a quick tip to make sure you're protected. You've probably heard that one shot glass full of sunscreen is the necessary dosage for the average body. This means one ounce, applied every two hours (or more often if you're swimming or perspiring).

To make sure you're using enough product without literally toting a shot glass to the beach, take a look at the ounceage on your bottle of sunscreen and multiply it by two so you can see how long the bottle should last you. For instance, an 8oz bottle of sunscreen only provides enough product to protect one person for about 16 hours- less than 2 full days in the sun. If it lasts longer, you're not using enough! My last piece of advice: buy cheap, use lots, and stay safe!


Musing on Beauty said...

I tend to use Japanese sunscreens on my face (SPF 50+ and wide spectrum) and for the body I like the Avene Mineral SPF, which is mainly zinc and titanium dioxyde.
However, the quantity you should apply - and every 2 hours, even - WOW! How is that even doable? I feel I'd be bathing in it LOL
I do apply a lot, though, but only on skin that is exposed, and wearing a t-shirt and a hat does help! If I were doing it wrong I'd be warned quickly since I have sun allergy.

Unknown said...

I really wish we'd gone ahead with the star system that was originally being considered; like the Japanese system it would have given a range of protection (Japanese sunscreens go from + to +++ I believe, with +++ being the fullest UVA protection). As I understand it, those sunscreens that pass the US FDA test for "broad spectrum" will have to prove that the UVA filters are equivalent to the UVB filters, so the SPF number will apply to both range of UV waves.

And keep in mind, the 2 hour rule is if you are out in the sun, say, sitting on a beach. For me, there are very few days I'm out that long, so remembering to reapply isn't too tough. Of course, clothing, hats and sunglasses are just as vital to preventing sun damage- especially since people rarely remember to apply sunscreen to places like the scalp and behind the ears, and are generally reluctant about applying it on the eyes.

Deb said...

Great post! I always thought that sunscreen over 50 was a bit ridiculous, but was never sure on what the limit was. Also never understood the difference between sunscreen and sunblock. I use an Aveeno SPF 30 suncreen with Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide... works pretty well for me.

Is it important to wear it on the face? I wear mineral makeup that has titanium dioxide and zinc oxide in the base but there, of course, is no exact protection number for that.

Unknown said...


I'm glad you like the post, and your question about the SPF in your foundation is a great one. So good, in fact, that I'm going to write up your answer in the form of an "Ask OutInAPout" so others don't miss the information! Thanks for the comment- keep 'em coming! :)

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