Despite New Rules, Some Still Make Dubious Claims
Before you head to the beach or the pool this summer, you might want to take a closer look at the label on your sunscreen. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently instituted new rules for sunscreen products, after complaints that many of their labels are misleading. The FDA no longer allows products to use the term "waterproof" since none can legitimately make that claim. The new rules also require that sunscreens block both ultraviolet A and B rays, since many previously only blocked UVB rays. Dr. Mark Anderson from Executive Medicine of Texas says it's important to filter out both types of UV rays. "A is the wavelength that is most responsible for the development of skin cancers, B is responsible for the tanning and aging that goes on in skin," he says.
Another major area where sunscreens can be misleading is in the Sun Protection Factor, or SPF rating. "Patients have gotten under the (impression) that more is better, and that's not necessarily the case," says Dr. Anderson. "Once you get past an SPF of about 30, there's not a whole lot more benefit." Indeed, SPF ratings of 50, 100, or even 150 only protect a percentage or two above a 30, and don't make much difference to most people. A recent study of 1,400 sunscreen products by the Environmental Working Group found that while most met the new FDA guidelines, one in seven still boast SPF ratings over 50. The group says these can be dangerous because they give people a false sense of added protection that really isn't there.
Experts like Dr. Anderson say that sunscreen is just one part of protecting your skin from the sun, and shouldn't be seen as a replacement for common sense protections. "Make sure you reapply it often, it does sweat off and wash off," he says. "And try to use hats, protective clothing, and shade." He also notes that people, especially men, often neglect to protect one of their most-exposed parts--their face. "Men can be just as aggressive (as women are with makeup) and wear a daily face cream," he says. "They should recognize how much sun they do get just sitting behind the wheel of a car."
Check out the complete 2013 Sunscreen Guide from the Environmental Working Group Here.