Sunscreen: New FDA labeling requirements
Sunscreen confusion won't be over before summer after all. The government is bowing to industry requests for more time to make clear how much protection their lotions really offer.
The Food and Drug Administration ordered changes to sunscreens last summer but gave their makers a year, until last month, to get revised bottles on the shelf.
The changes aimed to finally distinguish which brands protected against both sunburn-causing ultraviolet B rays and the deeper-penetrating ultraviolet A linked to skin cancer and premature aging. They also couldn't claim to be waterproof or sweatproof, only water- or sweat-resistant, so that people know sunscreens have to be reapplied frequently.
But sunscreen manufacturers said they were having a hard time meeting the deadline. So the FDA has given major sunscreen makers more time to make the changes.
Still, the FDA said companies could go ahead and put the new relabeled bottles on store shelves as soon as they're ready and encouraged them not to waste time.
There is a mix already in stores, as some companies have found it easier to relabel certain brands and bottles than others, said Farah Ahmed of the industry's Personal Care Products Council. But neither she nor the FDA could estimate how many of the new consumer-friendly sunscreens have made it to the market so far.
What to look for
You want protection against both UVA and UVB rays, explained Dr. Joshua Zeichner, a dermatologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan. Once the new rules are in place, any sunscreen labeled "broad spectrum" will offer both, but until then, there's no guarantee behind that wording.
To check for UVA protection now, look on the ingredients list for any of these names: zinc, titanium, avobenzone or ecamsule, Zeichner said.
Once the new rules are in place, sunscreens with less than an SPF of 15 or those not "broad spectrum" will have to carry a warning label: "This product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging."