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  • New FDA Rules Regarding Sunscreen

    Dr Claudia AguirreTwenty years ago, the concept of sun protection was to prevent sunburn from UVB rays. There was no international sun protection factor (SPF) test, sun products had virtually no protection against UVA -there were only two sunscreens classed as UVA filters- and there was no concept of photo stability applied to sun care products. The goal was to get a golden tan and enhance it as much as possible (ahem baby oil users!) instead of protecting from future damage.

    Today is a vastly different environment when it comes to sun protection. We know a lot more today about UVA rays than we ever did, and sun protection products are much more sophisticated. A recent New York Times article put it best: “After 33 year of consideration, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took steps on Tuesday to sort out the confusing world of suncreens…” To give you some perspective, it was still the Cold War, Polansky fled to France, Annie Hall won best picture and disco was queen of the nightclubs. Many of us were not even born… so yes the FDA took their time, but they finally released their final ruling on sunscreens in the United States. The statement covered some ground on testing and labeling of sunscreens.

    I’ve summarized the key points below:

    • Look for “broad-spectrum” in products that pass the FDA’s tests for UVB and UVA
    • If the product is both SPF15 minimum and “broad-spectrum” and is used regularly along with other sun-protection measures (clothing, shade), then these products can not only help prevent sunburn, but also reduce the risk of cancer and reduce signs of early skin aging.
    • No more “sunblock,” “sweatproof” or “waterproof” claims. Instead FDA will allow “water resistant (40minutes)” or “extra water resistant (80minutes)” as relevant.
    • Remember to apply at least every two hours, especially if swimming or sweating.

    Of course change doesn’t occur suddenly so these are points to look forward to in the next couple of years. It’s important to remember that sun screen is not fool-proof. Be sun aware, especially when outside for long periods of time, either in summer or hitting the slopes in winter. And remember, in order to get the actual SPF designated on the package you must apply a full teaspoon of product to your face and a shot glass amount to your body. Regulations have finally caught up with the science backing sunscreens as effective methods to prevent early skin aging. So enjoy the summer- but be sun aware!

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