Big changes coming to sunscreen labels

The recent hot weather has a lot of moms lathering sunscreen on their kids.

But if you are used to "waterproof" or "all day" protection, you may not find your sunscreen much longer.

That's because sunscreen labels are going to look a little different, because of new restrictions from the FDA.

Aims to End Confusion

Sunscreen labels have long been confusing, because each brand claims something different.

"It's confusing. It's hard because there's so many to choose. SPF 30, 35, 40," said Angie Rodriguez . "I usually just go for the number, the highest number that I see on the shelf."

It turns out, there's more to protecting your skin than just a few letters and numbers on the sunscreen bottle. The FDA is enforcing new guidelines and stricter labeling on lotions in mid-December, but many products with the new labels have already hit store shelves.

"I think it's going to make things a lot easier for consumers purchasing sunscreen," said Jennifer Lucas, M.D., an Ohio dermatologist.

Dr. Lucas says you want to look for the new term "broad spectrum" on the bottle. That's going to offer you the best coverage from both UVA light, which causes premature aging, and UVB light, which causes sunburn.

Lucas offers advice for the next time you buy a bottle.

"What I'd recommend is that you choose something that's at least a 15 SPF, preferably I would opt more for a 30 SPF, but you want something that's at least that strength and has that broad spectrum designation," said Lucas.

No More "All Day" or "Waterproof"

Perhaps the biggest change: Labels are no longer allowed to say "sunblock," "all-day protection," "waterproof," or "sweat-proof."

What they can say is "water resistant."

"What that means is if you go into the water for a period of time, your sunscreen will stay on you. There's two time levels that they've given sunscreen: A 40 and an 80 minute mark. So you know when you're in the water for 40 or 80 minutes, your sunscreen should stay on your skin," said Dr.  Lucas.

Another rule to keep in mind: The best way to protect your skin is to apply the lotion correctly and use the right amount. You need a shot glass or golf ball sized amount to cover your body if you're wearing a bathing suit.

One bit of good news: You don't have to throw your old sunscreen away. The FDA says sunscreen has a three-year shelf life. So check the expiration date on the back.

Dermatologist say you can still use two- to three-year-old bottles if it has both UVA and UVB protection on the label and it's at least 15 or 30 SPF.

That way you don't waste your money.


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