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FDA’s New Sunscreen Label Rules Are Coming

…along with more guidelines on what will keep your skin safe from harmful rays.

Don’t stock up on your sunscreen for summer just yet.

This June you’ll see major changes to the labels of all your favorite sunscreen products. Effective June 14, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be requiring manufacturers to disclose a lot more information on the labels, and to remove some misleading statements. 

Sunscreen will need to specify whether products protect against two classes of ultraviolet rays -- UVA and UVB -- and whether they reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging or just sunburn alone.

In addition, manufacturers will no longer be able to claim that their products are waterproof or sweat proof. Going forward, the labels will be able to say only "water resistant (40 minutes)" or "water resistant (80 minutes)."

Sunblock?

Not anymore! It’s sunscreen.

And finally, the backs of all sunscreen products must contain drug-information boxes listing every ingredient.

Initially this might add a few minutes to our shopping routine. We’ll need to adjust our buying habits and our expectations. However, the new standards are a good thing. They force sunscreen companies into more extensive testing of their products and do away with the vague (and sometimes misleading) marketing terms we've become accustomed to.

When you shop for sunscreen, don’t forget to make sure you pay attention to the ingredients.

For example, we should avoid sunscreens containing the ingredients Oxybenzone and Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate), and sunscreen with added insect repellent. We should also stay away from sprays, powders and SPF above 50.

That's because, as Environmental Working Group notes, “eating vitamin A-laden vegetables is good for you, but spreading vitamin A on the skin may not be. New government data show that tumors and lesions develop sooner on skin coated with vitamin A-laced creams. Vitamin A, listed as “retinyl palmitate” on the ingredient label, is in 41 percent of sunscreens. Avoid them.”

And Oxybenzone is a synthetic estrogen that soaks into the skin and can contaminate the body.

Additionally, remember that sprays and powders get tiny particles into the air, and they might not be safe to breathe.

Good ingredients include Zinc, Titanium dioxide, Avobenzone or Mexoryl SX.

And remember that sunscreen shouldn’t be your only defense against the sun. The International Agency for Research on Cancer recommends clothing, hats and shade as your primary protection. “Sunscreens should not be the first choice for skin cancer prevention,” IARC says,” and should not be used as the sole agent for protection against the sun.”

Each year EWG puts out an analysis of the best and worst sunscreens out there. Their database is not updated yet to account for the new labeling requirements, but take a minute to look up your favorite sunscreen in the 2011 database before you buy.

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