Hooray FDA: New Rules for Sunscreen Are Finally on the Way


There has been much ado about everything lately in the world of sunscreens. First, you have to stay out of the sun. Then you have to stay in the sun for at least a few minutes of the day. Then you have to be careful what kind of sunscreen you buy, how much you use it, and how well you use it. Because if you don’t, clearly the media is going to come after you waving sticks tipped with cancer. Or so it seems.

We’ve already learned about the dangers of sunscreen. As we recently reported, the Environmental Working Group has put the world on notice that the excessive amount of chemicals in sunscreens may be doing damage on a cellular level. As we discussed “Common sunscreens contain cinnamates, benzophenones and amino benzoic acid, which counteract sunlight when it is absorbed by the skin, thus causing genetic-material to damage.” Further, experts point out that sunscreen can create a false sense of security amongst its users. You still need to cover up and watch your time in the sun, regardless of what sunscreen you may or may not have put on your body.

But news out of the health world shows that doctors are starting to take notice about these chemicals. Harvard Health Publications reports that the FDA is requiring new rules for sunscreens, which are set to take effect in October of 2010. According to the experts, “UVB is the main cause of sunburn and the more carcinogenic of the two, although both contribute to skin cancer. UVA, which moves at a longer wavelength and is more penetrating, is responsible for tanning and contributes to skin aging.” Companies would be required to test and rank UVA protection claims, and not just UVB. And UVA and UVB will get “equal billing.”

Further, the FDA would make sure reapplication is emphasized while discouraging claims that sunscreens reduce aging and skin cancer risks. SPF ratings would also top off at 50+. Want to know more? You can read in detail about these requirements here.

But what does this mean for the chemicals in sunscreen? At present, not much – though Congress has just introduced the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010, which will give the FDA authority to make sure dangerous chemicals are not present in our beauty products. (Because right now they don’t have that right. Seriously.)

In the meantime, keep your eye on the prize when it comes to reading your labels. Look for eco-friendly packaging, titanium oxide over zinc oxide, (which Skin Deep rates as less hazardous) and less chemicals in the labels, especially cinnamates, benzophenones and amino benzoic acid.

Image: unconstructive_bry

Katherine Butler

Katherine Butler is the Beauty Editor of EcoSalon and currently resides in Los Angeles, California.