FDA creates new sunscreen rules

April 11, 2012 8:11:43 PM PDT
Sun protection takes more thought than just picking the bottle with the highest SPF. It's a lesson Emily Banks learned after a health scare.

"My aunt developed skin cancer a few years ago and it got into her lymph nodes. She lost part of her neck and her ear. I want to protect myself against that and I just remember it was very hard on our family," said Emily Banks, a patient.

The 22 year old has been seeing Doctor Erin Gilbert ever since. Stories like this pushed the Food and Drug Administration to set new guidelines to protect consumers from skin cancer and premature skin aging.

Even though dermatologists recommend using sunscreen each and every day, studies show just one in five people use it how and when they should.

Under the new rules, the FDA requires stricter testing and clearer labels on sun-protection products including cosmetics with sunscreens.

Look for three label changes this summer.

"The first test is the broad spectrum test, and what that does it check to see if the sunscreen has adequate coverage against UVA and UVB rays. The second test is the SPF factor test. We're more familiar with that, like an SPF 30. What that means is it tells us how good this product is at protecting us from sunburn. The final one is the water proof claim. A lot of products say sweat proof or water proof. That's just not physically possible. So the products now have to say they're water resistant or sweat resistant, not proof, and they have to let us know for how long," Dr. Gilbert explained.

If the product doesn't pass the test, a warning will say this will protect you from sunburn but not skin cancer or skin aging.

Dr. Gilbert says don't forget a few simple tips, "You have to wear your sunscreen. You have to get it on every day before you leave the house, rain or shine, whether it's winter or summer. You want to apply a shot glass worth of sunscreen to cover your face, your hands, your ears and neck areas. Stay out of the sun when you can especially during the hours of 10 and 4. Wear protective clothing, wear a hat, long sleeves, wear sunglasses."

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