Sunscreen changes to help protection process

August 9, 2012

Whether you worship it, play in it or work in it, you should protect your skin from it.

Tori Guerrini takes sun safety seriously.

"I had a grandmother who passed away of malignant melanoma," she said.

But like most others she's in the dark about big changes coming to sunscreen bottles.

"I didn't know anything was happening with that," she said.

Skin experts are hoping the new rules will make the products less confusing and help users better protect themselves.

But those changes are still months away, so for now consumers will have to continue to carefully interpret sunscreen labels.

"We need sunscreen we know that it protects you against skin cancer and that is protects you from sun damage," said dermatologist Jessie Cheung from Rush University Medical Center.

Sunscreen rules are currently in place for ultraviolet-B, which primarily causes sunburn, but not ultraviolet-A, which can lead to wrinkles and skin cancer.

The upcoming changes mean sunscreens must protect equally against UVB and UVA to carry the claim they offer broad spectrum protection.

"Now we are going to have UVA protection labeled as broad spectrum in addition to your SPF labeling," said Cheung.

Only sunscreens SPF 15 or higher that pass the test can claim to reduce the risk of early skin aging and skin cancer.

Another big change will be that sunscreens will no longer be able to claim to be water or sweat proof.

Look for brands that are water resistant for 40 or 80 minutes.

With summer winding down, dermatologists are warning users not to get too lax with their protection and many recommend sunscreens that are SPF 30 to SPF 50.

Also, make sure you're still using enough. You'll need about an ounce of lotion to cover your entire body every two hours.

"If you are still using the same bottle from the beginning of the summer it may actually not be enough and may actually not be work because it's been out in the 100 degree water in Chicago, so it's probably degraded to some point," Cheung said.

The new rules were slated to go into effect this summer, but were pushed back to December for most manufacturers after they claimed they weren't given enough time to comply.

People should not feel invincible with sunscreen. Many experts argue that sunscreen usage should only be a part of a balanced sun protection strategy that also includes covering up and seeking shade.

For more information:

American Academy of Dermatology

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