Protect your skin this summer

FDA rules offer clues for understanding sun protection today.  
New regulation will take effect next year.
photo: phaewilk

Protecting my family against the sun's rays has become something of a mission.  After experiencing Moh's surgery, and having cancerous tissue removed from my scalp and arms, I became hyper-aware of the negative effects of the sun.  Then my husband was diagnosed with melanoma.  Sun safety became, and always will be, a vital part of staying healthy.

When the FDA issued tougher regulation for sunscreen labels early last week, then, I combed through the new requirements.  The primary reason for these new rules?  To help consumers better understand the level of protection they receive when slathering on sunscreen.

In case you missed it, here's the skinny:

  1. The SPF number on your bottle of sunscreen only indicates the level of protection that you get from UVB rays.  Meanwhile, both UVA and UVB rays contribute to premature aging and skin cancer.  The new rules will require manufacturers to assign the SPF number based on the level of protection from both UVA and UVB rays.
  2. Currently, the phrase "broad spectrum" can mean pretty much anything a manufacturer wants it to, because there are not consistent standards surrounding its use.  The new rules will require "broad spectrum" to indicate protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
  3. The terms "waterproof" and "sweat-proof" will no longer be allowed.  Water resistant may be used, but a time limit will be associated with it.
  4. Any sunscreen with an SPF below 15 will not be able to claim it protects against skin cancer or premature aging of the skin.
  5. Because researchers have detected little additional benefit for sunscreens with SPF numbers above 50, the FDA is considering creating a maximum label of 50+
These new rules are sure to limit the head scratching that currently goes on in the drugstore as consumers weigh their options: "Should I buy the SPF 75 or 100?" "Is the broad spectrum best?"  "Spray can or lotion?" "If I'm playing sports should I get the sweat proof?"  "Which ingredients should I look for?"  

Of course these questions are still lingering out there now, and the new rules won't take effect until next summer.  So what can you do in the meantime?  Apply what you've learned from this latest press release:
  1. Don't buy anything with an SPF lower than 15.  
  2. Be wary of broad spectrum claims.  
  3. Don't assume anything is waterproof.  
  4. Don't worry about SPF claims higher than 50.  
  5. Don't forget common sense sun protection.  In addition to using sunscreen, don't forget your sunglasses, hat, and UPF clothing.  Use your vigilance to justify buying a fashionable new pair of sunglasses you'll love.  Buy a funky fedora for picnics, a fun wide-brimmed hat for the beach, and a baseball cap for playing with the kids in the pool.  
Off my soap box now.  Enjoy the warmth and fun of the sun (protected, that is).

PS: I've been implementing these ideas for years, and people often mistake me for a women in her early thirties.  That's a lie, but I'll go with it.

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