Effective this week, the FDA has issued new guidelines for sunscreen labels, and there are several major changes that you need to know about.
• No more SPF 100. Often, people grab whatever sunscreen is labeled with the highest SPF and assume it's the best protection out there. It was that misleading fact that sparked the FDA to make "SPF 50+" the highest rating allowed on a product. Why? According to the American Academy of Dermatology, an SPF 15 product blocks 93 percent of UV rays, SPF 30 blocks 97 percent, and SPF 50 blocks 98%, but once you go up to SPF 100 that number stays at 98%. However, the FDA will allow an SPF of higher than 50 if the company can prove that a product provides more protection than SPF 50. So far, none have been able to do so.
• No more "waterproof, sweatproof, and sunblock." These terms are too misleading, says the FDA. Sunblock is banned because no sunscreen can block 100 percent of the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays. All products will be called sunscreens from here on out. Waterproof and Sweatproof will be banned because they imply all day protection. Sunscreens are however, permitted to claim they are Water-resistant, but they have to specify how long they protect you - either 40 or 80 minutes.
• Clear definition of "broad-spectrum." SPF technically applies only to UVB rays, which cause sunburn, not UVA rays, which cause cancer and aging. "Broad-spectrum" sunscreens theoretically protect against both, but up until now they have never had to prove it. That's changing. In order to bear the label, any sunscreen labeled SPF 15 or higher must meet wavelength tests to show that it protects against UVA rays. Sunscreens with an SPF lower than 15 won't even be allowed to bear the "broad-spectrum" label.
• New Cancer Label. Just like on cigarette boxes, certain sunscreens will now be required to have cancer-causing warning labels on them. Any sunscreen with an SPF lower than 15, along with those that don't meet the criteria for broad-spectrum, will have to be labeled: "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."
• Dangerous Ingredients. Even though the FDA has come out saying that certain chemicals in sunscreens are linked to causing cancerous tumors and lesions, the FDA and National Toxicology have not actually banned these ingredients. They are simply to avoid certain chemicals if you can. Oxybenzone, octisalate, octinoxate, and avobenzon are known to cause significant hormone disruptors. Retinyl palmitate is also linked to causing tumors and lesions. The Environmental Working Group recommends choosing products with one of these ingredients instead: zinc, titanium dioxide, avobenzone, or Mexoryl S. Also, the formulas in spray sunscreens can fill the air with tiny particles that EWG says can cause lung inflammation and may be carcinogenic.
The Environmental Working Group analyzed over 800 beach and sport sunscreens, and compiled a list of the best and worst affordable sunscreens available, based off of the following:
-Good, stable sun protection,
-Fewest ingredients with toxicity concerns. Do not contain the worst offenders: retinyl palmitate and oxybenzone.
-No sprays or powders
-No SPF values above 50+
Best affordable sunscreens
Coppertone Kids Pure & Simple Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50
BabyGanics Cover Up Baby Sunscreen for Face & Body, Fragrance Free, SPF 50+
Sunbow Dora the Explorer Sunscreen, Pink, SPF 30
Purple Prairie Botanicals SunStuff Mineral Lotion, SPF 30
Nature's Gate Aqua Block Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50
Solbar Shield Sunscreen, SPF 40
Caribbean Solutions Sol Kid Kare Biodegradable Sunscreen, SPF 25
Tropical Sands Broad Spectrum Sunscreen, SPF 30
KidsUV Natural Sunscreen, Blue, SPF 30
Color Me Pink Baby UV/ Kids UV 100% Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30
Alba Botanica Natural Very Emollient Sunblock, Kids Mineral Protection, SPF 30
Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen, Face, SPF 30+
Healing-Scents Live Long Mineral-Based Sunscreen, SPF 25
Hara Body Care Hara Sport Sunscreen, SPF 30
Vanicream Sport Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 35
EWG's list of worst sunscreens
Neutrogena Fresh Cooling Body Mist Sunblock, SPF 70
Banana Boat Sport Performance Active MAX Protect Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 110
Aveeno Continuous Protection Sunblock Spray Active, SPF 70
Wegmans Sheer Sunscreen Body Mist, SPF 55
Rite Aid Extreme Sport Continuous Spray, SPF 70+
CVS Sheer Mist Sunscreen, SPF 70
Walgreens Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen Spray, SPF 70
Coppertone Sport Clear Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 90