Last summer, the FDA announced new regulations affecting how sunscreens are marketed. Accordingly, sunscreen labels will no longer be allowed to feature the words “waterproof,” “sweatproof,” and “sunblock”—because no sunscreen is truly waterproof or sweatproof, and no lotion completely blocks the sun‘s harmful rays. Originally, the changes were set to take effect this June. Now, though, it’s OK for stores to sell products making these dubious claims on through the hot months ahead.
After first setting a date of June 18, 2012, for compliance with the Food and Drug Administration’s new sunscreen regulations, manufacturers now have an extra six months to get up to speed with the requirements. Regulators agreed to the delay after manufacturers said they didn’t have enough time to comply, and that a shortage of sunscreens in stores could be the result. Some smaller sunscreen makers will have until as late as December 2013 to make the changes, reports USA Today.
The changes won’t necessarily affect what manufacturers put inside sunscreen bottles. Instead, it’s what’s stated on the labels that’s being tweaked.
Beyond the banning of words that have commonly but dubioiusly been displayed on sunscreens—”waterproof,” “sweatproof,” “sunblock”—the FDA is changing how SPFs (sun protection factors) are displayed. Look for the words “Broad Spectrum” to appear on sunscreens in the years ahead. That’s the phrase OK’d to describe a product that has an SPF rating of at least 15 protecting the user from UVA (ultraviolet A radiation—the rays associated with skin cancer) and UVB rays (ultraviolet B radiation, which cause sunburn) alike.
As for “waterproof,” “sweatproof,” and “sunblock,” the FDA has decided to ban their usage on sunscreen labels because “these claims overstate their effectiveness.” What’s more, sunscreens must stop claiming that they can protect users from the sun for more than two hours without reapplying. And if a sunscreen says that it is “water resistant,” it’ll have to prove it with standard testing, and it’ll have to get more specific, listing that it’s effective for either 40 or 80 minutes of swimming or sweating.
Again, these new requirements won’t officially be in effect until early winter of 2012. This summer, sunscreens will be sold with the same old labels and claims. This isn’t to say that the sunscreens won’t be effective. Nor that you should freak out and throw away your sunscreen. When the FDA announced the changes, it stated:
The ingredients in FDA-approved sunscreens marketed today have been used for many years, and FDA has no reason to believe these products are not safe and effective when used as directed. Therefore, FDA is not advising consumers to throw away their current sunscreen products.
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While the pro-consumer Environmental Working Group says it is “baffled” by the delay and is upset that the FDA has “caved to industry pressure every step of the way,” the American Academy of Dermatology Association announced that it “understands the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) decision to extend the compliance dates for the sunscreen labeling” because it’ll give manufacturers “the necessary time to test their products for broad-spectrum protection and properly label them.”