Understanding new sunscreen labels

Sunscreen labels will specify whether the sunscreen is water-resistant and whether it\'s good for 40 or 80 minutes in the water. (Thinkstock)

WASHINGTON – The days are getting longer. The sun is getting hotter. And sunscreen products carry new labeling this year to help you choose the right one.

“Consumers will be able to really look to see how effective a sunscreen is by glancing at the label,” says Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, a Washington-based dermatologist.

Under new FDA guidelines, consumers will know from the sunscreen label whether the product is broad spectrum and protects against skin cancer or whether it will just help prevent a sunburn.

Consumers seeking protection against skin cancer should look for the words “broad spectrum” on the label.

“It protects not only from sunburn but from skin cancer. And those sunscreens are going to have SPF 15 or above and be broad spectrum,” Tanzi says.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends SPF 30 or higher for the best protection.

The new labeling also will specify whether the sunscreen is water-resistant and whether it’s good for 40 or 80 minutes in the water.

“No longer will sunscreens be able to call themselves waterproof- or sweat-proof, those terms are misleading,” Tanzi says.

While dermatologists are pleased with the new labeling, Tanzi warns that sunscreen is just one part of a good sun protection program.

“You not only want to use your broad spectrum sunscreen, SPF 30 or above, you want to reapply it frequently. That may be every two to three hours, but also seek shade and wear sun protective clothing,” Tanzi says.

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