The New Rules for Sunscreen

There is no question most skin cancers are related to sun exposure. Skin cancer rates continue to climb, and rates of melanoma (a dangerous form of skin cancer) have increased 2% each year since 2000. Whenever my patients come in for skin checks, I educate them on different ways to protect their skin. And with any disease, prevention and early detection are key. This past summer, most of the sunscreens must conform to new Food and Drug Administration (FDA) labeling rules that may help remedy misconceptions. With summer fast approaching, I wanted to share these changes with you.

1. Make sure you see the words "broad spectrum." The first thing you want to look for are the words "broad spectrum.” This means the sunscreen can protect your skin from both types of harmful UV rays — UVA rays and UVB rays.
2. Choose a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. The second thing you want to look for is the SPF. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends you select a sunscreen with a SPF rating of 30 or higher. Any product with an SPF lower than 15 must carry a label warning that it will not protect against skin cancer. Manufacturers can still sell sunscreens with SPFs that exceed 50, though the FDA is evaluating whether they should remain on the market. It’s not clear that sunscreens with higher SPFs actually are more effective, and consumers may be misled and not apply them as frequently.
3. Look for the words "water resistant.” Dermatologists also recommend you look for the words "water resistant.” This tells you the sunscreen will stay on your skin, even if your skin gets wet. Not all sunscreens offer water resistance. Products cannot claim to be waterproof, only water-resistant, and labels must note a time limit of either 40 or 80 minutes before the sunscreen is ineffective. This tells you how long your skin can be wet or sweaty before you need to reapply.
4. Why you won’t find sunblock. "Sunblock" is another word you will no longer see. This word misleads people. Manufacturers must use the word "sunscreen."

Dr. Cindy N. Berthelot, M.D. is a board certified dermatologist treating patients in the greater Houston community, including Clear Lake, League City, Friendswood, Pasadena, Deer Park, Dickinson, Pearland, Alvin, Seabrook, Kemah, Webster, Galveston, Texas City, La Marque, and Santa Fe, Texas. To make an appointment with Dr. Berthelot, please contact us at (281) 480-7272.