In a landmark move, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is requiring sunscreens to show on their labels how well the product protects users against cancer- causing ultraviolet A (UVA) light as well as sunburn-causing UVB light.
Sunscreens are already required to list a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) level on their bottles that lets users know how well the product protects against UVB light. The new regulations, which will go into effect by next summer, will add the UVA rating. UVA rays can be more damaging than UVB rays because they penetrate deeper into the skin and cause the skin to tan.
The FDA says the new rating will help clear up confusion consumers may have about the safety of the product they are using. Just because a sunscreen says it protects against sunburn doesn’t mean it also protects against skin cancer.
To achieve a rating that allows a sunscreen to call itself one that “reduces the risk of early skin aging and cancer,” the sunscreen must show that the amount of UVA protection proportionally increase as the SPF level increases. The product will also have to be SPF 15 or greater.
Other regulations sunscreens will have to follow include the addition of a drug facts box on the back of the bottle, as seen with over-the-counter medicines. Sunscreen manufacturers also cannot make claims that the product will provide more than two hours of protection, nor can they cam that the product is waterproof or sweat-proof without indicating the length of time it can provide protection. The agency is also considering changing its maximum sunburn protection level from SPF 30 to 50.