font size

Sun Protection and Sunscreens (cont.)

Medical Author:
Medical Editor:

Can the labels on sunscreen products be trusted in the U.S.?

In the past, manufacturers' claims on sunscreen packaging were largely unregulated. However, in recent years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued new labeling regulations for over-the-counter sunscreens. According to these FDA guidelines, sunscreen labels were prohibited from making claims that are considered unproven or absolute such as "waterproof" and "all-day protection." Earlier regulations for sunscreens concerned protection against sunburn, which is primarily caused by ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation from the sun, and did not address ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation, which is a cause of skin cancers and early skin aging.

According to a 2011 ruling, all products that claim to provide broad spectrum sun protection must comply with the following rules:

  1. If a sunscreen is labeled as "broad spectrum," it must pass a test that measures the product's ultraviolet A (UVA) protection relative to its ultraviolet B (UVB) protection. The label must indicate the degree of SPF or overall protection. Broad-spectrum SPF products with SPF values higher than 15 provide greater protection and may claim additional uses, as described below.
  2. Manufacturers of broad-spectrum sunscreens with SPF of 15 or higher may claim that these products reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging if used as directed with other sun-protection measures. Non-broad-spectrum sunscreens (those that do not pass the broad spectrum test described above) and broad-spectrum sunscreens with an SPF value between 2 and 14 can only claim to help prevent sunburn.
  3. Manufacturers cannot label sunscreens as "waterproof" or "sweatproof" or identify their products as "sunblocks" because these claims are exaggerations. No sunscreen can completely block the sun's rays. According to the FDA ruling, "Sunscreens also cannot claim to provide sun protection for more than two hours without reapplication or to provide protection immediately after application (for example, instant protection) without submitting data to support these claims and obtaining FDA approval."
  4. Manufacturers of sunscreens that claim to be water resistant must indicate on the product label whether the sunscreen remains effective for 40 minutes ("water resistant") or 80 minutes (labeled "very water resistant") while swimming or sweating, based on standard testing. Products that are not water resistant must contain instructions on the label telling consumers to use a water-resistant sunscreen if swimming or sweating.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/23/2014

Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

Sunscreen - Tips for Reapplying Question: Please share suggestions for reapplying sunscreen, like after swimming or perspiring.
Sunscreen - Sunburn Prevention Question: Besides sunscreen, what prevention measures do you use to avoid getting sunburn?
Sunscreen - Best Types Question: What is the best brand of sunscreen, in your experience?
Sunscreen - Sunburns in Winter Question: Have you ever gotten sunburned in winter? Describe what happened and how you will prevent it next time.
Source: MedicineNet.com
http://www.medicinenet.com/sun_protection_and_sunscreens/article.htm

Women's Health

Find out what women really need.

Use Pill Finder Find it Now See Interactions

Pill Identifier on RxList

  • quick, easy,
    pill identification

Find a Local Pharmacy

  • including 24 hour, pharmacies

Interaction Checker

  • Check potential drug interactions
Search the Medical Dictionary for Health Definitions & Medical Abbreviations

From WebMD