A lot's been said about sunscreen and SPF in the past few weeks. This month, the FDA released their new rules for sunscreen regulation and it has us wondering just how much we really know about the sun. Terms like SPF, broad spectrum, UVA, UVB, and water-resistant are often thrown around, but it now seems that all are not equal in the world of sun protection and you may not be as covered as you think. Here are some quick tips, facts, and tricks to help ensure you stay protected this summer.
Image via Victoria's Secret
There's been a lot of talk about different types of sunscreens, and whether standard cream is best. It seems to be, because a lot of other formulations are coming under scrutiny – namely sprays, powders, and wipes. The FDA is currently investigating whether inhalation is a concern when using sprays and whether the dosage is sufficient to provide enough protection. One other interesting fact found in the report is that wipes, towelettes, powders, body washes, and shampoo are not eligible to market as SPF without an approved application. So while some of the powder formulas are coming under scrutiny from the press, they might be a legitimate way to touch up your sunscreen.
Another key factor for women when applying sunscreen is the effectiveness of makeup with added SPF. When dealing with sun protection, you should always err on the side of caution. Think about the amount of sunscreen you typically use to cover your face and neck, and then compare that to the amount of foundation you use: while a makeup formula with SPF provides an added bonus, it shouldn't be your sole source of protection.
There's been lots of debate about the SPF numbers on bottles. Some insist they're meaningless and over-30 SPFs don't contribute additional protection; others subscribe to the higher-is-better mentality. SPF 50 is now the official limit, since there's little evidence proving that anything over 50 has added benefits. Brands are allowed to market their products as 50+ but you're just as well off going with a standard 50. If you have darker skin or are not prone to burns, you may think you're fine with an SPF 8 or even none at all, but products under SPF 15 will protect against burns though not against sun damage and early aging.
The most important element of the new regulations is that there's now a standart test to identify products that are allowed to be marketed as "broad spectrum." Unfortunately, these won't come into play until next year. The FDA was worried that once the regulations were in place, there would be a shortage of products available for the summer months. While this isn't comforting, it ensures that future products will be labeled more accurately.
There are now standard rules against marketing a product as waterproof, sweatproof, or sunblock. Some products may truly be water-resistant, but it's important to always clearly read the re-application times on the packaging. You'll no longer see phrases like 'all-day protection' on your sunscreen bottles, because it's simply never true.
With these new regulations, we can all hope to be better protected in the future.