Ah the 70s, a time when vinyl was king with top hits like Bridge Over Trouble Waters and Stayin’ Alive.  A time when there was no sunscreen and we baked in the sun using an odd combination of baby oil and iodine.  Fast forward to today when we have 100 SPFs and routine screenings for melanoma.  And finally new FDA regulations on sunscreen products. They have not been updated since 1978.

NEW LABELS ON SUNSCREENS FDA Sheds Light on Sunscreens - (JPG v2)

Gone will be the terms: “sun block”, “water proof”, “sweat proof” because those claims are bogus. Other changes include:

  • final regulations that establish standards for testing the effectiveness of sunscreen products and require labeling that accurately reflects test results
  • a proposed regulation that would limit the maximum SPF value on sunscreen labeling to “SPF 50+”
  • a data request for safety and effectiveness information for sunscreen products formulated in certain dosage forms (e.g., sprays)

Broad spectrum is an important and the FDA will require that products touting the term must protect against both UVA and UVB rays.  UVA rays are the longer deeper penetrating rays associated with skin damage and skin cancer.  UVBs are the ones that give us suntans and sunburns. Melanoma is complex disease and while sun damage is implicated as culprit is not the sole source.  Still protecting yourself when out in the sun for long periods of time is wise.

The Environmental Working Group has excellent guidelines on what to seek and what to avoid.  In short:

  • Don’t use sprays – not enough covers the skin
  • Do use sunscreen containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide –they offer broad spectrum
  • Don’t use products over 50 SPF – they’re not any more effective

Avoid the hottest part of the day, wear hat, and wear lightweight long sleeves and pants – all will cut down on damaging rays and some now contain protection within the fibers.


It’s a confusing world when on the one hand we’re told stay out of the sun to avoid skin cancer, and yet we’re also told that population-wide we’re deficient in vitamin D (the primary source of which is the sun).  Experts say 10-15 minutes per day in the sun is enough to get the vitamin D you need.  You can also eat fish, drink fortified milks and take fish oil.


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