What you may not have heard is that the way you are using sunscreen needs to change. The FDA announced new guidelines for sunscreen labeling last year, and since this is a transition year, there’s lots of confusion out there right now because both old and new labels are floating around. (The FDA gave companies until June 18 to comply, though they’ve since extended the date to ensure there isn’t a sunscreen shortage this summer.)
We asked a few dermatologists to lay it all out for us, and also to offer their take on the best way to stay protected with the least amount of hassle. Read on for the scoop on how to interpret the new labels, as well as our fave new sunscreens, which come in all sorts of innovative formulas. Trust us when we say this is not your mom’s goopy Coppertone.
• There’s no such thing as “waterproof” sunscreen: Just ask Leah, who came back from her recent beach getaway a little fried after using a so-called waterproof brand. According to L’Oréal Paris Consulting Dermatologist Dr. Gervaise Gerstner, sunscreens can no longer claim to be waterproof and sweat-proof. Companies can say sunscreen is “water resistant” but must specify how often you should reapply.
• So how often should you re-apply?: Dr. Gerstner recommends slathering more on after an hour of swimming or sweating. You don’t need to re-apply for routine daily use. “Remember you get sun even through the car window,” she reminded us.
• What exactly does “broad spectrum” mean? With the new FDA monograph guidelines in effect, only products that provide balanced UV protection will be labeled ‘Broad Spectrum.’ Both UVA and UVB rays contribute to sunburn, skin cancer and premature skin aging so it’s important to pick a product that offers proven balanced protection. Products that are not ‘Broad Spectrum’ or contain SPF levels lower than SPF 15 can only claim to prevent sunburn.
So what about makeup and beauty products that contain sunscreen. Do they do anything?