Latest Facts about Sunscreen

May 2013

Sunscreen Image

Newer FDA-mandated labels make it easier than ever to juggle SPF, UVR and TGIF. Here's how to understand sunscreen label terms:

  • Broad spectrum These sunscreens block both UVA (long-wave radiation that penetrates deep into the skin, potentially damaging DNA) and UVB (short-wave radiation responsible for most sunburns). If a sunscreen is not labeled "broad spectrum," it should be considered effective only in preventing sunburn, not skin cancer.
  • SPF Consider the sun protection factor (SPF) as a broad indication of how well a sunscreen protects you from UVB rays. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers SPFs under 15 to be ineffective protection against skin cancer. There's little evidence that SPFs above 50 provide meaningful additional protection, so the FDA now requires that labels stop at a broad "50+."
  • Water-resistant Sunscreen manufacturers must now rigorously test their products for water-resistance, and labels can claim only one of two levels: 40 minutes or 80 minutes, indicating the amount of time your SPF will hold up if you are swimming or sweating.
  • Sunblock, waterproof & sweatproof These claims were never true and are now prohibited. If you see these words on a label, the product was probably manufactured prior to the new FDA guidelines. Pass it up.

From our sister publication REMEDY's Healthy Living Spring 2013

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 02 May 2013

Last Modified: 23 May 2013