New FDA sunscreen guidelines

Now sunscreens are being held to higher standards.

If you’re like me, an old bottle of sunscreen is still at the bottom of your beach bag. But sunscreens don’t last forever. And now sunscreens are being held to higher standards.

In 2012, the Food and Drug Administration issued new guidelines on sunscreens and the claims they make in advertising. According to the guidelines, sunscreens “have to protect against both ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays and may be labeled as ‘broad-spectrum SPF.’” Packaging can no longer say sunscreen is “waterproof.” James Jennings, M.D., family medicine physician with Norton Community Medical Associates – Brownsboro, says if sunscreens were truly waterproof, they’d never wash off.

Sunscreen manufacturers must also tell users how often they need to be reapplied. As for how long sunscreens last, some bottles have an expiration date. Others lose effectiveness after “being exposed to high temperatures.” And isn’t that nearly always? If your sunscreen is more than two or three years old, get rid of it. And make sure you use enough to thoroughly protect your skin. A physician who blogged on the Mayo Clinic’s website says if we use sunscreen properly, we wouldn’t have any left from year to year.

A last bit of advice from the American Academy of Dermatology is to use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more. It also recommends putting sunscreen on half an hour before going outside and to reapply every two hours, or more often if you’re swimming. Dr. Jennings offered one other bit of advice. He says, “If your shadow is shorter than you are, stay out of the sun until later in the day.” I have never heard that before, but it sure makes sense.

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