New sunscreen labels designed to better protect outdoor enthusiasts
June 14th, 2011
09:59 AM ET

New sunscreen labels designed to better protect outdoor enthusiasts

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday it will implement new rules for sunscreen products, in order to help Americans reduce their risk of skin cancer and early aging.

The agency's new testing regulations will let consumers know whether a sunning product is "broad spectrum," which means it protects against both ultraviolet rays A and B. U-V-A rays are the main cause of skin cancer and premature aging. Too many U-V-B rays can cause serious sunburn.

“FDA has evaluated the data and developed testing and labeling requirements for sunscreen products so that manufacturers can modernize their product information and consumers can be well-informed on which products offer the greatest benefit,” said Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “These changes to sunscreen labels are an important part of helping consumers have the information they need so they can choose the right sun protection for themselves and their families.”

When it comes to a product's Sun Protection Factor or SPF number, which lets people know how long they can stay out in the sun before they reapply the product, sunscreens that have SPF values between 2 and 14 must be labeled as Broad Spectrum in order to be sold as sun protection. But only products that are labeled as Broad Spectrum with SPF values of 15 or higher may state that they reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging, when used as directed.

Any product that is not Broad Spectrum, or that is Broad Spectrum but has an SPF between 2 to 14, will be required to have a warning stating that the product has not been shown to help prevent skin cancer or early skin aging.

“Most skin cancers are caused by sun exposure. FDA encourages consumers to protect themselves,” Woodcock added. “Not only should consumers regularly apply and reapply sunscreens with Broad Spectrum and SPF of 15 or higher, they should also limit sun exposure.”

People will also no longer see figures higher than SPF 50; just 50+. That's because the FDA says it doesn't have enough information to show that products with SPF numbers higher than 50 provide any additional protection.

The new labels also will tell consumers how much time they can use a "water resistant" product while either swimming or sweating before they lose protection. And products will no longer be allowed to label themselves waterproof, sweatproof or call themselves sunblocks.

Some consumer activist groups, including Public Citizen have called for better testing on a number of over-the-counter products including sunscreens. Once the new label regulations are in effect (in about a year) the FDA hopes they will assure sunbathers that any product labeled "Broad Spectrum" and "SPF 15" or higher, not only protects against sunburn, but skin cancer as well, because it's been tested.

soundoff (68 Responses)
  1. RunForTheHills

    The government should just make it illegal to go outside in the Sun. If they really wanted to protect people, that is what they would do. Instead, they want to protect the corporatists by implying it is safe to go out in the Sun if and only if you use their products.

    The only way to completely avoid the risk of Sun exposure is to remain indoors – and a government that was really concerned about peoples' health would criminalize the behaviour that leads to poor health.

    June 14, 2011 at 11:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Skip a beat

      Seriously the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Make it illegal to go outside?? Your body also needs vitamins that the sun gives...

      June 14, 2011 at 11:15 | Report abuse |
    • todd

      Going outside isn't the problem. It's tanning that is the issue. Laying inert for hours on end or using a tanning bed is what will cause problems.

      Also, if you are outside all day every day (think construction workers) you are at increased risk.

      Going outside occasionally, even getting the occasional mild burn, will do no harm.

      June 14, 2011 at 11:31 | Report abuse |
    • E N OH

      At Todd:

      Getting a series of mild burns does increase the risk for all types of skin cancer, and it will definitely lead to premature aging of the skin.

      Just like most things in life, the best thing to do is moderate your exposure. 10-15 minutes of sun a day is good thing. An hour a day is questionable, and more than an hour is just plain harmful. Why do you think skin cancer rates are skyrocketing? Back when people had to spend the whole day outdoors, they knew to cover up, and even then, they rarely lived long enough to get cancer. Now that we live longer, we have to be wiser with how we do things or we pay the price later.

      June 14, 2011 at 11:38 | Report abuse |
    • sara

      Not only a seriously stupid comment but also a frightening one. Do you really believe the government should control you to that level? You need to immediately enroll in an empowerment series of classes so that you can take control of your own life and be responsible for your choices and actions. Wow, I sure hope you are not a voting American.

      June 14, 2011 at 11:45 | Report abuse |
    • marty

      It is only 11:45 (here) and you have already won the "stupidest post of the day" award. Illegal to go outside ? Are you retarded ?

      June 14, 2011 at 11:51 | Report abuse |
    • narf zort

      you people are dense. i understand this guy's humor. apparently you do not.
      ganja is illegal. yet the sun is not? how about some of you humorless folks do the research. sun has killed how many people? ganja? let's discuss.

      June 14, 2011 at 12:07 | Report abuse |
    • I get it

      Sarcasm is lost on these people, but don't worry I appreciate the humor.

      June 14, 2011 at 12:10 | Report abuse |
    • skarrlette

      No one wants to see obese pasty white Americans out on the beach anyway LOL stay home!

      June 14, 2011 at 12:16 | Report abuse |
    • jturgeon

      What's even funnier than your sarcasm is the fact that a good handful of posters think you are being serious! IMBECILES!

      June 14, 2011 at 12:40 | Report abuse |
    • hical

      absolutely ... forced to wear a helmet when on motorcycle, wear a seatbelt in my own car, etc .... yeah it would be consistent if the government made it illegal to sun bathe ... and it would help cut the costs of healthcare ... but then some dermatologists would need to find work elsewhere.

      June 14, 2011 at 12:42 | Report abuse |
    • sowgoodseeds

      Can y'all not catch the sarcasm in this comment? You didn't really think he/she was serious, did you?

      June 14, 2011 at 12:57 | Report abuse |
    • donuthead

      RunFTH...your wit is dry.just like my favorite champagne. My, what a dust up your words have caused...harhar.

      June 14, 2011 at 13:07 | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      Enjoy your cheesecake while it's still legal, folks.. 🙂

      June 14, 2011 at 17:22 | Report abuse |
    • ...k

      you are an r tard. seriously that was soooo stupid!

      June 14, 2011 at 22:52 | Report abuse |
    • JJinCVistaCA

      @RunForTheHills, blah blah blah, government is bad, blah blah blah.

      Question: Do you know what's worse than a bad government?...

      Answer: Stupid people... more specifically, the type of stupidity that those on the right spew every day.

      The reality of the fact is that government doesn't automatically become good or bad because one individual votes for one political party over another, or when one political party wins majority over the other party... a bad government is born when people with stupid ideas vote for candidates that embrace those stupid ideas and fully expect those candidates to implement those stupid ideas. This is the hallmark of conservatives and the Republican party over the past half century.

      June 15, 2011 at 03:36 | Report abuse |
  2. gnodges

    People are like every other living thing on this earth.........they NEED the sun's rays to thrive. Should you stay out in the sun all day until your cooked?...no. But, don't think that slathering this stuff into your skin all day is much better for you.....can you say 'free radicals'. Do your research, and you will find that there is NO scientific evidence that sunscreens REDUCE your cancer risk, and you may actually be increasing your risk by introducing free radicals into your skin. Also, you NEED vitamin D, so don't shun the sun completely......

    June 14, 2011 at 11:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • A

      While you have a valid point, please keep in mind there are many people, myself included, that cannot stay out in the sun for more than half an hour without developing a sunburn. In fact, I ate lunch outside with friends once, was out for an hour, and was sunburned.

      Do I wear sunblock everyday? Of course not. But if I want to enjoy the outdoors and go hiking for a few hours, or spend a couple hours at the beach, or even bike around town in the morning to go to the farmer's market, I need to put on sunblock. This new labeling system will be very useful for determining the proper sunblock for my needs, and I welcome the change.

      June 14, 2011 at 11:20 | Report abuse |
    • mm

      "may actually be increasing your risk by introducing free radicals into your skin" What study indicates this?

      June 14, 2011 at 11:25 | Report abuse |
    • E N OH

      At mm:

      You don't need a study to understand this point, it is basic physical chemistry. "Sunscreen" agents, such as octyl methoxycinnmate, absorb uv photons and become photoexcited. Most often, these photoexcited molecules relax to the ground state by re-emitting a pair of lower energy photons in the near infrared. However, on occasion, the photexcited moelcules can react with other orgnaic molecules (such as fatty acids), or even water, to form free radicals.

      There have been studies that have demonstrated this effect clinically in mice, and lately now in humans. But basic physics says the sunscreen idea is imperfect at best, so there really is no need for a clinical study when you understadn the mechanism of photo-injury.

      June 14, 2011 at 11:32 | Report abuse |
    • skarrlette

      Everyone should just move back to Ireland and England where no sun shines then they don't have to worry about it.

      June 14, 2011 at 12:02 | Report abuse |
    • BoneZ

      I don't like the idea that the companies are no longer able to market a sunscreen as waterproof. I want to know which one is going to stay on the best if I'm swimming. This labeling control has some very bad points to it.

      June 15, 2011 at 03:49 | Report abuse |
    • MJ

      It's much more harmful and painful for me to NOT wear sunscreen then it is to wear it. I can have a burn that will last for days from just 20-30 minutes of direct exposure. Skin cancer is a very big risk to me and I carry around sunscreen for when I unexpectedly get caught outside.

      June 15, 2011 at 10:43 | Report abuse |
  3. Mahhn

    Does the FDA address the concern of some products sold as Sunscreen actually contain known carcinogens?

    June 14, 2011 at 11:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Loren

      That's EXACTLY what I was wondering!!!

      June 14, 2011 at 12:20 | Report abuse |
    • MrsFizzy

      No ...that would be too much work. And it keeps the pharma companies happy. Never mind that they could solve a lot of it by approving Epitan which would allow people like me to produce a protective level of melanin without the sun – never mind that the damage is done for me – but then that would damage the sunscreen makers' profits...

      June 15, 2011 at 14:28 | Report abuse |
    • Luan

      Tina Posted on Wow! I really ejeoynd that. My mind plays horrible tricks on me when I'm training and I try really hard to not let it, which is a task in itself, but my coach is fantastic at spotting it and moving me on from whatever negative thought I'm having. Really ejeoynd the article

      November 14, 2012 at 09:49 | Report abuse |
  4. Mike

    People need to lighten up on here. Clearly the first post on here was in jest and does not really think going outside should be criminalized. Why do I even read these posts during lunch.

    June 14, 2011 at 11:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Wen

      @Mike– Why do I even read these posts during lunch.

      answer–Free entertainment

      June 14, 2011 at 11:40 | Report abuse |
  5. todd

    Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, SPAMMITY SPAM, SPAMMITY SPAM!!!

    Think Monty Python.

    June 14, 2011 at 11:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Maude

      forget to take your pill toddy boy.

      June 14, 2011 at 18:11 | Report abuse |
  6. b

    Great more governement regulation to make our sun screen cost more. Like more expensive label are going to help anyone.

    June 14, 2011 at 11:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Everyman

      And why would the packaging be that much more expensive? Or are the type that just likes labels that only say oil, toothpaste, pill......

      June 14, 2011 at 12:26 | Report abuse |
    • Cindy H

      Didn't you know? They charge by the letter.

      June 15, 2011 at 08:28 | Report abuse |
  7. dcn8v

    What about requiring an expiration date? Sometimes they're really hard to find or non-existant on sunblock.

    June 14, 2011 at 12:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Ira

    This nanny-state behaviour needs to stop. So what if the FDA isn't convinced that SPF numbers higher than 50 make any difference? They used to say that about SPF 30. If we want to be extra cautious, they should let us be cautious. They should let us have the information we need to make that decision.

    Hiding information from the consumer doesn't help the consumer. I strongly oppose the FDA's decision th prohibit SPF numbers over 50.

    June 14, 2011 at 12:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cindy H

      But ... they are doing away with the labeling because it's likely a farce. So, you want them to keep the false advertising so that you can use it to make a baseless decision that makes you feel better about yourself?

      June 15, 2011 at 08:34 | Report abuse |
  9. jturgeon

    Holy crap! Look, you should wear a sunscreen equivalent to about 30 spf. That's it. No fancy labeling and pictures and an informational CD to accompany ever purchase. It's not the FRIGGIN difficult people.

    June 14, 2011 at 12:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • stopthat

      We find it amusing when people say things like, "you should". That just sounds controlling...

      June 14, 2011 at 13:30 | Report abuse |
    • Judy

      Well . . . maybe not everyone needs that much protection, because we don't burn as much as others, and maybe some of us need more protection than that because we burn more easily or because we are taking medications (of which there are many) that make us more photosensitive than the average person. It's not so FRIGGIN difficult to understand that not every person needs the same level of sun screen, although such simplicity would obviously make your life easier. 😉

      June 15, 2011 at 00:21 | Report abuse |
  10. aubrie

    I, along with several other people I know, have recently been diagnosed with VERY low vitamin D levels. Two of my doctors have told me that much of this has to do with sunscreen. I was told to wait 15 minutes in the sun before putting on sunscreen. Those 15 minutes of exposure are necessary for vitamin D to be activated in the skin. I think the point of sun exposure is to be prudent and not doing anything excessively.

    June 14, 2011 at 12:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • donuthead

      So true...so true.

      June 14, 2011 at 13:10 | Report abuse |
    • Erin

      Me too. I have been diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency, and now my thyroid is having problems because of it. I was avoiding the sun like the plague because of skin cancer fear, and now I will be on thyroid meds for the rest of my life. I now have a healthy sun glow, I don't go out and get burned, but I do go out for about 15-30 minutes a day without sunscreen so that I can get natural vitamin D and not have to take so many supplements.

      June 14, 2011 at 13:15 | Report abuse |
    • SpenserA

      I hear ya! Having survived melanoma, I have a dermatologist preaching that I stay out of the sun. Being a woman over 50, I have a gynecologist preaching that I need to get sun exposure to increase my vitamin D level to avoid osteoperosis. What is a girl to do?

      June 14, 2011 at 13:47 | Report abuse |
  11. Maude

    Bull crap, there are people who live in the American sunbelt that get exposure to the sun 12 hours a day. These people don't get skin cancer. The white people should breed with the Mexicans, this would solve all kinds of problems.

    June 14, 2011 at 13:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • E N OH

      Maude, those same people (even black or hispanic) who work their whole lives in the sun are getting melanomas and carcinomas are much higher rates than in the past. Why? Because they don't cover up. True, if you cover up and wear a hat, you will likely be alright. But most do not cover up. And without a doubt, even if you wear a hat, with that kind of exposure, you'll get full cataracts by age 65-70 for sure.

      Ever see any photos of native americans from 100+ years ago? It's not a pretty sight...wrinkes, cataracts, and skin cancers galore. Sun can and will damage any color of skin and eyes given a lifetime of overexposire.

      June 14, 2011 at 13:29 | Report abuse |
    • Cigarme

      Really? I think wrinkles on old people and babies are beautiful.

      June 14, 2011 at 13:33 | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      I don't know where you get your information, but wherever it is you should find a new source because you are completely wrong about that. Just a few examples:

      Dramatic Increase in Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer
      by M Sgambati – 2010
      Mar 24, 2010 ... A new report shows that procedures for nonmelanoma skin cancer increased by 76% from 1992 to 2006.
      http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/719091 – Similar

      Incidence of skin cancer rising at alarming rate
      Feb 4, 2011 ... For many young adults, the serious health consequences of tanning have been shown to have little impact on their behavior when it comes to ...
      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110205140318.htm – Cached
      Skin Cancer Rates on the Rise, Study Finds – ABC News
      Mar 17, 2010 ... Study Finds 'Epidemic' of Skin Cancer. ... over the rising incidence of non-melanoma skin cancer - the most common form of the disease. ...
      abcnews.go.com › Health › Health – Similar
      Dramatic Rise in Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer Prevalence Seen Across ...
      Apr 19, 2010 ... The prevalence of nonmelanoma skin cancer (NMSC) in the United States is around 5 fold greater than that of prostate or breast cancer: a ...
      http://www.medinewsdirect.com/?p=862 – Cached
      Data show incidence of skin cancer rising at alarming rate | http ...
      Feb 4, 2011 ... Learn more about Data show incidence of skin cancer rising at alarming rate at http://www.aad.org.
      http://www.aad.org/.../data-show-incidence-of-skin-cancer-rising-at-alarming-rate – Cached

      June 15, 2011 at 00:25 | Report abuse |
  12. Jeff

    The real labels we need are those indicating which ingredients in the sunscreen are potentially cancer-causing on their own (many are).

    June 14, 2011 at 13:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. SpenserA

    I'm a melanoma survivor. I'll be two years cancer-free on July 9th. Phew!! So my public service announcement to all of you is to use your SPF 30+ sunscreen. The problem I see with this enhanced labelling is that the over zealous sun worshipers who need the extra information aren't going to read it beause they don't use suncreen before they hop into the tanning bed. There's a woman in my home town of Pittsburgh, PA who is suing a tanning salon that she went to for 13 years because "they never told her" she could get melanoma. This infuriates me! If you're going to take the risk, you've got to deal with the consequences.

    June 14, 2011 at 13:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. erich2112x

    Lower the camera shot.

    June 14, 2011 at 13:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. dfw

    So what did the cavemen/women do back in the day when they didn't have sun-screen? How long did their life span last?? curious to know if 'sun-screen' is a bunch of crap to people would spend money on it.

    June 14, 2011 at 14:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Katherine

      The average age of life expectancy has increased much much more since the cavemen days. Even compare to a mere few decades ago. People are living at unprecedented longer life span. Unfortunately cancer is the disease that will thrive alongside longer life. People died from other issues before cancer like malnutrition and diseases at a younger age much more so than cancer. Preventive measures like sunscreens will and should be the norm since we now live decades longer than our ancestors.

      June 14, 2011 at 15:58 | Report abuse |
    • LenF

      It's amazing how ignorant some people are that they could even ask a question like that!

      June 15, 2011 at 00:27 | Report abuse |
    • MrsFizzy

      Katherine I can't believe you gave that a serious response..!

      June 15, 2011 at 14:31 | Report abuse |
  16. jaycool

    dont be hoodwinked. The sunscreen contains ingredients that are harmful..Read it..You need the sun to be healthy..Nothing lives without the sun...READ..

    June 14, 2011 at 14:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Alexandra

    I got really excited when I saw this headline, then I realized that there was no mention of the chemicals in certain sunscreen products that are bad for people. Everyone should go to the new guide on Environmental Working Group before buying sunscreen and find out what's in these newly labeled products ...

    June 14, 2011 at 14:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. hk

    they really need to make the expiration date easier to read! I know so many people that keep sunscreen around forever–then use it-get burned! the date is on the crip–really hard to read!

    June 14, 2011 at 15:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Maude

    Melanoma is serious stuff. I was in the habit of going to nudist beaches for the last 10 years. I lay in sun with by buttocks exposed most of the time. Both sides of my buttocks were eventually sliced off because of Melanoma. So please use sun screen or you could end up buttockless.

    June 14, 2011 at 15:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. arachne blue

    Why don't we just put everyone in plastic bubbles the minute they are born and just keep them there? Or turn them all into batteries like in Matrix?

    June 14, 2011 at 16:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. P-Diddy

    People who don't spend any time in the sun at all can get skin cancer.
    People who spend all day in the sun with no protection most of the time don't get skin cancer anyway.

    Cancer...ALL CANCER comes from people not taking care of their health in various ways. Eating processed chemical laden pesticidal herbicidal frankenmeats and dead vegetables from a country 3000 miles away while guzzling HFCS and acid while sitting all day at their desk job and then sitting on the drive home and then coming home and sitting all night on the couch thinking "Working Out" for 30 minutes is going to be a fix all. Stuffing their face with 3 – 15 meals a day to the point where there body is ALWAY DIGESTING something and never has time to repair itself.

    To all the people here who say they get sunburned after 30 minutes in the sun. Start eating REAL..ORGANIC...Fruits, Vegetables, Herbs, Fats, Meats, Nuts and cut out all the Non-Foods and give it a month. Then venture out in the sun and see if your skin still lights up like your a friggin vampire. I know from experience that you'll probably have magically developed a tolerance to that which gives the rest of the planet life.

    June 15, 2011 at 08:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Littleroo27

      Way to incorporate the masses there, P-Diddy! I have a lot of Irish blood and spending any time outside over 15 minutes leads to a sunburn. I regularly use SPF 50+ in order to avoid the pain, though my skin itches after extended sun exposure even with sunscreen. I don't eat frankenmeat (in fact, I rarely eat meat at all) or dead vegetables from 3000 miles away, nor do I guzzle anything but water. While I do admit to being a desk jocky who doesn't work out, my overall health is just fine... I do, however, lack the melanin necessary to tan. I also find the idea of skin cancer somewhat offputting and can't understand why a person would choose SPF 15 if there is an option of SPF 50+. Who cares if you don't burn – those UVA rays are still getting under your skin and damaging the deeper layers. While this article has NOTHING to do with the government and everything to do with providing consumers with information, if anything should be outlawed, it should be tanning beds. Or, at the very least, the same laws applied to smoking should apply to tanning beds. Get cancer at your own risk and be 18 or older to do it, if you must.

      June 15, 2011 at 12:37 | Report abuse |
  22. RAS

    Why did they wait so long to report this? People have been questioning the effectiveness of high SPF sunscreen for years! Why is there a big push to change labels now? The same evidence that isn't here now was not there years ago.

    June 15, 2011 at 09:54 | Report abuse | Reply
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