FDA postpones sunscreen labeling rulesMay 14th, 2012 | Posted by in Cancer | Prevention | Skin Cancer | Sunscreen
It seems the confusion regarding which sunscreen to use will continue longer as the FDA has delayed enforcement of rules designed to possibly ease confusion among consumers about which product offers the most protection. Last summer the FDA ordered manufacturers to comply by this July with regulations requiring them to to make clear how much protection their lotions really offer. In other words, they needed to get revised bottles on the shelf to clearly distinguish which brands protected against both sunburn-causing ultraviolet B rays and the deeper-penetrating ultraviolet A linked to skin cancer and premature aging. They also couldn’t claim to be waterproof or sweatproof, only water- or sweat-resistant — so that people know sunscreens have to be reapplied frequently.
So, in efforts to placate the pleas of the major sunscreen manufacturers, the FDA has extended the deadline another six months, until December 2012. Smaller companies will have even longer (some until December 2013) to comply with the FDA rules.
This does not make those pushing for clearer explanations on sunscreen bottles happy at all. One such individual is Democratic Senator from Rhode Island, Jack Reed, who stated that “The FDA took a major step backwards today and as a result, more consumers will likely get burned this summer.”
Yet, FDA spokesman Shelly Burgess says her agency understands the need for additional time and feared that holding the companies to the original deadline would cause a shortage of some types of sunscreen this Summer. The regulations do not require manufacturers to reformulate their products only to revise or amend the packaging to comply with the new verbiage. This does pose problems for companies with smaller packages as they will now have to fit information in an already cramped space.
Dr. Joshua Zeichner, a dermatologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, explains what consumers should now look for:
- You want protection against both UVA and UVB rays
- Once the new rules are in place, any sunscreen labeled “broad spectrum” will offer both, but until then, there’s no guarantee behind that wording
- To check for UVA protection now, look on the ingredient list for any of these names: zinc, titanium, avobenzone or ecamsule
- Once the new rules are in place, sunscreens with less than an SPF of 15 or that aren’t “broad spectrum” will have to carry a warning label: “This product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging.”
- If it still says “waterproof,” it was bottled under the old rules. Once the new rules are in place, the sunscreens will have to say how long they’re water-resistant
Finally, most dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and to reapply liberally and frequently while in water.