New Rules For Sunscreens

It could be said that there’s been a national sunscreen saga of sorts.

Last year the F.D.A. cracked down on labeling that many argued mislead consumers into believing their sunscreens offered ample protection from the sun’s rays, when in fact they didn’t. Now, any sunscreen making such claims must offer broad spectrum coverage of both UVA and UVB rays that complies with F.D.A. testing standards. There’s also a proposal to limit SPF levels at 50+ (since the agency has deemed anything more as an unwarranted claim), but that one’s still on the table.

Going forward, “water- and sweatproof” labeled products must be more accurately described as “water- or sweat- resistant,” and state how long it remains that way before dissipating (40 or 80 minutes). This goes for all SPF-labeled moisturizers and cosmetics, too, says the F.D.A. Meanwhile, in order to make the grade, popular sprays must provide testing data affirming they’re safe and effective in the amounts needed. Gone too is the term, “sunblock”; now only “sunscreen” is acceptable.

MORE: Shocking Photo: Why You Need to Get Out the SPF

These new rules were set go into effect on June 18th of this year—but the F.D.A. has given companies another six months to transition their labels. “The F.D.A. was concerned that those manufacturers who wouldn’t be able to complete the broad spectrum testing and product relabeling before the compliance date might decide to temporarily discontinue their sunscreens, which would limit the quantities of sunscreens available in the marketplace,” F.D.A. spokesperson Stephanie Yao tells YouBeauty.

However, a group of senators—Jack Reed (D-RI), John Kerry (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT)—have petitioned the F.D.A. asking them to reverse that decision, a sentiment echoed by leading experts in the industry. “I’m concerned this will lead to more confusion and burns this summer,” says YouBeauty Dermatology Expert, Jeanine B. Downie, M.D.

VIDEO: Stave Off Sunburns

But until those regulations finally go into effect on the new December 18, 2012 deadline, you can screen your own products by choosing a full spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen (look for that phrase on the bottle) of at least SPF 30. And when enjoying the sun on those lazy days by the beach or pool, generously reapply sunscreen to exposed skin every two hours, advises Downie.

Here, several sunscreens that pass the test.