Six more months to know if your sunscreen works

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
FDA delays ruling on sunscreen labeling until December 17, 2012.
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According to a new release from the Federal Register, the FDA is delaying compliance of manufacturers who will have to re-label sunscreen ingredients to tell consumers exactly what protection they’re getting from premature aging and cancer. The agency is giving sunscreen makers 6 more months to test and accurately label their products , meaning consumers are still at risk if they’re sunscreen isn’t really sweat proof, waterproof or offers both UVA and UVB protection. The previously set deadline was June, 2012.

Fear of industry non-compliance prompts sunscreen labeling delay

According to the government website, the fear is that manufacturer’s won’t have time to do the needed testing, “…and instead prompts them to apply the labeling that the final rule establishes for products that have not been established to offer broad spectrum protection…”

The FDA has agreed to the delay per a request from The Personal Care Products Council (PCPC) and The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), both of which are trade associations for the cosmetic, personal care and OTC product industry.

It’s going to take 6 more months - until December 17, 2012 - for manufacturers to meet the Drug Facts labeling requirements for OTC sunscreens.

In the meantime, you can avoid the risk of skin damage and cancer by focusing on a healthy diet, especially foods that can help thwart skin cancer, and using a sunscreen with an SPF factor of 30 or higher and reapply it often, even if the label says it won’t wash off with sweat or water.

It’s also a good idea to avoid tanning, gardening or other outdoor activities between the hours of 10am and 4pm. If you have to be outdoors, wear protective clothing, including a hat and UVB protective eyewear.

Once the new ruling is in place, consumers will know if their sunscreen carries both UVB and UVA, or ‘broad spectrum’ protection and exactly how long it lasts after being in the water – but until then you can’t completely rely on the current labeling.

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We recommend you check out the EWG’s sunscreen guide, released in 2011, which also contain fewer hazardous chemicals than other heavily marketed brands.

The Environmental Working Group considers the labeling delay as less than savory.

“FDA just gave consumers 1,800 more reasons to turn to our sunscreen database,” said Environmental Working Group senior analyst Sonya Lunder. “We are baffled that FDA deems it necessary to delay such weak regulations. The agency has caved to industry pressure every step of the way.” The EWG says they estimate that 90% of sports and sunscreen product are in compliance with the FDA's "low-bar regulations on efficacy and safety." Their 2012 personal care product database is due for release next week.

You can also view recommendations and response to the FDA's ruling from the American Academy of Dermatology here.

Until we hear something different, we won’t know if our sunscreen does what it says until after the summer heat has ended, but just in time for a December cruise to the tropics. The FDA has agreed to comply with the trade industry's request to delay sunscreen labeling that will continue to cause confusion for consumers until mid-December.

Sources:
Federal Register
5/11/12

EWG

Image credit: Morguefile

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