New Rules for Sunscreen

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New Rules for Sunscreen

By Martha Lee

This summer has become a sizzler fast, and while out and about in the heat and sun, it’s important to remember to cover up with hats, shades, and sunscreen.  Everyone’s flocking to the beaches, pools, and lakes to splash and stay cool while basking in the sun.  The smell of coconut lingers in the air as mothers slather their children down with sunscreen and the likes of you and me both take turns rubbing in suntan lotion on each other’s backs. At least we’re covering up, right?  Well, have you ever wondered what it is exactly that you are rubbing or spraying directly on your skin?  I’ve recently done some homework about the ingredients in most sunscreens, and what I found may just surprise you!

FDA’s New Rules for SPF and UV Protection

The FDA has set new standards for testing sunscreens, and they are making sure companies are labeling their products accordingly.

Things to look for on the label (according to the new policies of the FDA):

1. Make sure it says “Broad Spectrum” and has an “SPF greater than 15.” This information on the label shows us that the sunscreen protects against both Ultraviolet B radiation (UVB) and Ultraviolet A radiation (UVA). Making sure you’re protected against both will reduce your risks of not only burns but skin cancers and early aging too.

2. Warning labels - if the sunscreen company does not protect against both mentioned above, then it is required by the new policies of the FDA to place a warning label stating that it does not protect against UVA and UVB rays.

3. Sunscreens can no longer claim to be “waterproof” or “sweatproof.”  After a certain time frame (usually no longer than 2 hours), it is best to reapply sunscreen regardless of allegations claiming otherwise.

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Leave it or buy it? The brands on the right are healthier than the ones on the left.

Choose Natural Ingredients

Some ingredients found in sunscreen can be more detrimental to your health than helpful.  It’s best to read the label and know what ingredients to look for and others to stay away from. 

1. Buy it!

Lotions and creams that are mineral-based tend to be the best for us to use on a consistent basis.  Zinc oxide is the most common. 

Try to find sunscreens with moisturizers like plant oils, beeswax, and butters. It’s an added bonus that can keep skin soft and smooth combatting the natural drying and damage that the sun can cause. 

2. Leave it on the Shelf!

Spray-on sunscreens.  Although convenient, spray-ons contain nanoparticles and other harmful chemicals that can be absorbed into the skin and lungs, and they can be very dangerous if inhaled into the lungs.  If you do end up with spray-on sunscreen, be sure to spray away from faces or breathing areas. 

Oxybenzone - many, many sunscreens contain this harmful chemical (a human endocrine disruptor) that can absorb into skin and get into bloodstream.  Look out for any words containing benzophenone, phenyl, or methanone. Also check your makeup for this chemical!

Vitamin A - surprisingly, it can increase cancer risks when on sun-exposed skin.  Retinyl Palmitate is a form of Vitamin A to watch for as well.


Armed with this valuable information, we’ll all be ready for long, fun days in the summer sun.  Just be sure to cover up with a good quality sunscreen, and you’ll be good to go!  Remember: reach for broad spectrum, SPF15+, zinc oxide lotion, and avoid all the rest!

For more information and to see a list of 1700+ sunscreens already rated by the FDA, check out Environmental Working Group.

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