Bottles of Banana Boat Sport Performance Cool Zone sunscreen are...

Bottles of Banana Boat Sport Performance Cool Zone sunscreen are seen at a NASCAR media tour in Concord, NC. (Jan. 24, 2012) Credit: AP

Whether you're planning a weekend at the beach, packing a bag for your summer vacation or just hanging out in your backyard, sunscreen is a staple for combating the harmful, and sometimes painful, effects of the sun.

SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, has long been the standard of measurement for sunscreen products, with many consumers choosing a higher SPF for greater protection, but the FDA now says that these numbers may be misleading.

To help consumers choose the best protection for them, new packaging regulations announced by the FDA in 2011 are set to hit shelves this season.

Below are the changes and what they mean:

— Check for a product labeled "broad spectrum" -- this tells you that the sunscreen protects against UVA and UVB rays (UVA ages skin while UVB burns the skin).

— The terms "waterproof" and "sweatproof" have been banned from packaging, and instead, consumers should look for sunscreens labeled "water resistant". Additionally, these products will also list how long the product is effective for, indicating when to reapply.

— Manufacturers can no longer claim to provide "instant protection" on their packaging.  Instead, they must submit data and receive approval from the FDA to do so.

— Lastly, according to the FDA's website: Sunscreen products that are not broad spectrum or that are broad spectrum with SPF values from 2 to14 will be labeled with a warning that reads: "Skin Cancer/Skin Aging Alert: Spending time in the sun increases your risk of skin cancer and early skin aging. This product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging."

In addition to these new sunscreen regulations, there are a few key long-standing rules to best protect yourself from the sun's harmful rays.

— Be sure to wear broad spectrum SPF 15 or higher sunscreen and apply as directed.

— Limit time spent in the sun, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun's rays are the most damaging.

— Consider wearing clothing such as long sleeved shirts, long pants, sun glasses and broadbrimmed hats as much as possible.

— Reapply sunscreen at a minimum of 2-hour intervals; more often if you are sweating or going in and out of the water.

Below is a video from the FDA about proper sunscreen use and the new packaging changes. Mobile users can find the video here:


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