Don’t Get Burned By Your Sunscreen – 7 Rules for Skin Health

In December 2012 the FDA’s final regulations went into effect, making sunscreen effectiveness more reliable, but the rules of the game have changed.

According to, “One blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life. A person’s risk for melanoma also doubles if he or she has had five or more sunburns at any age.” So how do we protect ourselves?

  • RULE #1-The USFDA has now labeled sunscreen as an over the counter drug. Sunscreen offers a health claim and is now viewed as an OTC drug. This makes for a more accurate product now that it is regulated. If the bottle claims a SPF rating of 30, it must be an SPF of 30. Schools and daycares also must take caution in administering an OTC drug, so be sure to check with your child’s care providers for their policies.
  • RULE #2-All sunscreens need to be reapplied every 2 hours. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, meaning, if your sunscreen has an SPF rating of 30, you can stay in the sun up to 30 times longer than you could if you were unprotected. When selecting an SPF you must also factor in your skin type. The fairer your skin, the higher the SPF needed. Because most sunscreens can easily be washed off with sweat and water, they still need to be reapplied every 2 hours to remain the most effective no matter how high the SPF rating is.
  • RULE #3-Your sunscreen should be broad spectrum. The long and short of it is that broad spectrum means that it will offer both UVA and UVB coverage. UVA rays are the aging rays. Eighty percent of aging is directly related to the sun! UVB rays are the rays that give us that nasty sunburn.
  • RULE #4-SPF 15 and lower just aren’t enough. So plain and simple that the FDA states any product with and SPF lower than 15 must carry a label warning that it will not protect against skin cancer.
  • RULE #5-Don’t be fooled by high SPF. SPF’s higher than 50 have not been proven to be any more effective and often have a higher chemical content increasing the toxicity of the product. FDA officials are evaluating if these products should even still be available. Steer clear of products that have a new SPF 50+ rating.
  • RULE #6-There is no such thing as “waterproof.” Products can only claim to be water resistant for up to 40 or 80 minutes before becoming ineffective and must be labeled accordingly.
  • RULE #7-We still need the sun! Avoiding the sun means we avoid things we also need, like vitamin D. So if you are going to avoid the sun, be sure to have your vitamin D levels checked regularly and supplement if needed.

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