Last summer, the Food and Drug Administration announced stricter guidelines for sunscreen labeling designed to resolve consumer confusion over what the claims on sunscreen bottles really mean: for instance, sunscreens will no longer be allowed to call themselves “waterproof” or “sweatproof,” which are exaggerations, and they’ll have to pass an FDA test to claim they’re “broad spectrum,” meaning they protect against both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B rays (UVB), which contribute to skin cancer and early skin aging.
In May, the FDA gave manufacturers an extension until December to revise their labels. In the meantime, consumers can look for another helpful label on sunscreens and other sun-protection products: the Seal of Recommendation, which is granted by the Skin Cancer Foundation to products that meet the criteria of an independent Photobiology Committee. The committee of five reviews the scientific evidence provided by manufacturers that their product sufficiently and safely “aids in the prevention of sun-induced damage to the skin.”
“When sunscreen was first created, there was a lot of confusion about what was really protective. The seal program was made to create a standard until sunscreen technology improved. It has worked to make protection more stringent,” says Dr. Steven Q. Wang, Skin Cancer Foundation spokesperson and member of the Photobiology Committee.
When it comes to sunscreens, the Skin Cancer Foundation differentiates between “Daily Use” and “Active” products. Daily use products, which include moisturizers, color cosmetics and lip balms, are those designed to protect you from incidental sun exposure that occurs over short periods of time — i.e., not when you’re lying on the beach or out for long hike in the sun, which is when you’d use Active products.
“Even when you’re coming and going from your home to the office, you can be exposed — even if you’re not expecting a lot of exposure to UV radiation,” says Dr. Wang. Indeed, a study last year showed that driving may be causing an increase in left-side skin cancers in the U.S.
Bottom line: it’s important to wear sunscreen daily, even if you’re not specifically planning an outing in the sun.
Daily use products get the Seal of Recommendation based on these criteria:
- Offers UVB protection with SPF 15
- Offers UVA protection with a critical wavelength of 370
- Has been tested for contact irritancy and phototoxic reactions
Try this: Eucerin Daily Protection SPF 30 Moisturizing Face Lotion, $8.99