This summer has been especially brutal, with heat waves sending temperatures soaring in 20 states and breaking more than 170 all-time warmth records. According to the NOAA National Climatic Data Center, the first half of 2012 has been the warmest on record for the U.S. mainland since record keeping began in 1895.
Surviving The Hot Weather – Don’t Forget the Sunscreen
Remember the importance of protecting your skin from damaging sun rays
Sunny skies and warm temperatures make us go back to our favorite outdoor sporting activities. While there are many health benefits of an active lifestyle, outdoor sport enthusiasts must keep in mind the potential adverse effects of prolonged sun exposure.
There are so many options for proper sun protection that it can be overwhelming to know which one is right for you. The fact is, there are New Federal Guidelines For Sunscreen.
In June 2011 FDA announced significant changes to sunscreen products that will help consumers decide how to buy and use sunscreen, and allow them to more effectively protect themselves and their families from sun-induced damage.
FDA’s Final Regulations
The final regulations, which became effective June 18, 2012, establish a standard test for over-the-counter (sold without a prescription) sunscreen products that will determine which products are allowed to be labeled as “Broad Spectrum.”
However, to avert a shortage of sunscreen in the upcoming months, FDA has extended the compliance dates for testing and labeling until Dec. 17, 2012 for most over-the-counter sunscreen products. This decision followed a review of timelines and other data submitted by trade associations representing sunscreen manufacturers.
Products that pass the broad spectrum test will provide protection against both ultraviolet B radiation (UVB) and ultraviolet a radiation (UVA). Sunburn is primarily caused by UVB. Both UVB and UVA can cause sunburn, skin cancer, and premature skin aging. A certain percentage of a broad spectrum product’s total protection is against UVA.
Under the new regulations, sunscreen products that protect against all types of sun-induced skin damage will be labeled “Broad Spectrum” and “SPF 15” (or higher) on the front.
The new labeling will also tell consumers on the back of the product that sunscreens labeled as both “Broad Spectrum” and “SPF 15” (or higher) not only protect against sunburn, but, if used as directed with other sun protection measures, can reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging. For these broad spectrum products, higher SPF (Sun Protection Factor) values also indicate higher levels of overall protection.
By contrast, any sunscreen not labeled as “Broad Spectrum” or that has an SPF value between 2 and 14, has only been shown to help prevent sunburn.
To help consumers select and use sunscreens appropriately, the final regulations include these additional labeling provisions:
- Sunscreen products that are not broad spectrum or that are broad spectrum with SPF values from 2 to14 will be labeled with a warning that reads: “Skin Cancer/Skin Aging Alert: Spending time in the sun increases your risk of skin cancer and early skin aging. This product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging.”
- Water resistance claims on the product’s front label must tell how much time a user can expect to get the declared SPF level of protection while swimming or sweating, based on standard testing. Two times will be permitted on labels: 40 minutes or 80 minutes.
- Manufacturers cannot make claims that sunscreens are “waterproof” or “sweatproof” or identify their products as “sunblocks.” Also, sunscreens cannot claim protection immediately on application (for example, “instant protection”) or protection for more than two hours without reapplication, unless they submit data and get approval from FDA.
Not all sunscreens are created equal
The best type of sunscreen is the one you will use again and again. Sunscreen products are regulated as over-the-counter drugs by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Final regulations by the FDA will became effective June 18, 2012 to establish a standard test for over-the-counter sunscreen products that will determine which products are allowed to be labeled as “Broad Spectrum.” Products that pass the broad spectrum test will provide protection against both ultraviolet B radiation (UVB) and ultraviolet A radiation (UVA). Sunburn is primarily caused by UVB; however, both UVB and UVA can cause sunburn, skin cancer, and premature skin aging.
Listen to the reasons why some work—and others don’t.
This video outlines the new steps FDA is taking to protect consumers from sun damage to the skin.
Sun safety is never out of season
Summer’s means it’s time for picnics, trips to the pool and beach—and a spike in the number of sunburns. But winter skiers and fall hikers should be as wary of the sun’s rays as swimmers. People who work outdoors need to take precautions, too.
Even on a cloudy day, UV rays, not the temperature, do the damage. Clouds do not block UV rays, they filter them and up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays can pass through the clouds.
You don’t have to be at the pool, beach, or on vacation to get too much sun. Skin needs protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays whenever you’re outdoors. Snow reflects 80 percent of the sun’s rays and sand reflects 25 percent of the sun’s rays, so it’s important to use sun protection methods when outdoors in the winter months as well. Children and adults often get sunburned when they are outdoors unprotected for longer than expected. Remember to plan ahead, and keep sun protection handy – in your car, bag or child’s backpack.
Any change in the color of our skin after time outside – whether sunburn or suntan – indicates damage from UV rays. If your skin looks “a little pink” today, it may be burned tomorrow morning. A tan is a response to injury; skin cells respond to the damage from UV rays by producing more pigment. Therefore there is no safe way to tan. Tanned skin is damaged skin. As this damage builds up, you speed up the aging of your skin and increase your risk for all types of skin cancer.
Additional information about FDA’s changes to sunscreen regulations can be found at www.fda.gov/sunscreen. At this link, consumers can see what new sunscreen labels will look like, what types of sun protection various sunscreens will provide, and how to use sunscreens safely and effectively.
FDA Sheds Light on Sunscreens
FDA Consumer Update
Questions and Answers on Sunscreen
Have fun in the sun … but do it safely!