Approximately one third of sunscreens provide less than half of the SPF claimed

Medscape (5/19, Doheny) reported, “About a third of sunscreens tested by experts…provide less than half the SPF protection claimed on the label,” according to Consumer Reports’ annual sunscreen report. According to the article, the Food and Drug Administration does not routinely test sunscreen products’ SPF.

Dr. Bader recommends sunscreens that have a high concentration of zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as the active ingredient(s). These are physical blockers, that reflect all of the suns rays (UVB and UVA).

Chemical blockers only work for specific wavelengths and break down, often within a few hours of sun exposure.

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The new U.S. FDA guidelines for rating and labeling sunscreens

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United Stated. One should use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. The SPF rating system only applies to the protection the sunscreen has against UVB and will still be used. Here are the changes in labeling:

  • The highest SPF rating will now be 50+. You will not see any sunscreens with a rating of 70 or higher.
  • Only products with an SPF of 15 or higher will be able to claim that they protect against sunburn, skin cancer, and photo-aging.
  • Manufacturers can no longer claim that their product is waterproof or sweat-proof. Products can labeled water-resistant.

Recommendations:

  • Apply sunscreen liberally–do not use too little.
  • Reapply sunscreen often–at least every few hours and immediately after swimming.
  • Try to use water-resistant sunscreens that work for 40 or 80 minutes (under the new labeling system)
  • Always use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are two active ingredients that work well against all of the suns rays.
  • Use a sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or greater.