How Safe is Your Sunscreen?

Going green, Green kids — By Stephanie on June 21, 2011 at 6:11 am
mom son sunblock How Safe is Your Sunscreen?

How safe is your sunscreen?

Ever wondered what all those labels mean on the bottles of sun protection lotion?  Do you know just how safe your sunscreen is?

The sun protection factor (SPF) of any sunscreen is supposed to give you an idea of just how long it is advisable to stay outdoors before the potential of a sunburn arises.  Perhaps more importantly, you’ll want to know whether your sunscreen can prevent cancer.  After all, red, inflamed skin is a temporary annoyance.  But skin cancer is much more serious.

In the past, buying sunscreen with SPF 30 means you could stay in the sun 30 times longer than if you did not have any sunscreen on. But it turns out that those labels don’t give the whole story.  Not only do you have to consider how green your sunscreen is, but also whether

Starting in 2012, sunscreen manufacturers will be labeling their products “broad spectrum” if they meet that requirement.

“Broad spectrum” sunscreens will have to meet stringent requirements under new requirements of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that require products to do an adequate job blocking both UVA and UVB rays.  If a sunscreen does not protect against both, then it must carry the following warning: ” This product has been shown only to prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging.”

The new FDA regulations require that sunscreens are now tested for the ability to block more dangerous UVA rays, which lead to the greatest risk of skin cancer and wrinkles.  As it stands today, FDA regulations only require testing for protection against UVB rays, which result in sunburn, as well as cancer and skin damage.   Says Dr. Ronald Moy, president of the American Academy of Dermatology:

“For the first time, the FDA has clearly defined the testing required to make a broad-spectrum protection claim in a sunscreen.”

The new sunscreen regulations should help consumers decide how to protect themselves from sun exposure.  Last year, an estimated 68,000 people in the United States were diagnosed with melanoma, which is the most dangerous form of skin cancer.  Of these people, about 8,700 died from skin cancer.

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