The Buzz Phrase for Sunscreen Products Now is “Broad Spectrum”
New regulations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will require that labels for sunscreen products that protect skin from all types of sun damage – sunburn, skin aging, and skin cancer – will be identified as “broad spectrum.” Labels will also include the sun protection factor (SPF) against sunburn. The new requirements will go into effect next summer.
What Does “Broad Spectrum” Mean?
“Broad spectrum” products protect against powerful skin-damaging and cancer-causing ultraviolet A rays (UVA) as well as ultraviolet B rays (UVB) that causes skin to burn.
It has taken the FDA over 30 years to finalize these regulations, which are intended to help consumers better understand the level of protection they can expect if they choose to bask under the sun’s rays.
Sun Exposure and Skin Cancer
There are real dangers to the skin from too much sun exposure. Besides premature aging of the skin, too much sun can cause skin cancer. Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, 68,130 Americans were diagnosed with invasive melanoma in 2010 and nearly 8,700 have died.
The Sunny Side of Sun Exposure
And yet, in spite of the dangers, it’s hard to resist relaxing at the beach, near the water’s edge, on a warm, sunny day. And the sun gives us a healthy dose of Vitamin D, which we need for healthy bones and good moods. (Vitamin D deficiencies can contribute to chronic fatigue and depression.) However, to get that healthy, feel-good dose, you only need five to 15 minutes of exposure to the sun’s UVB rays a day. The rest of the time, you should wear sunscreen.
More on SPF Ratings
The SPF rating measures the degree of protection from getting sunburned. So, if it takes 10 minutes for your skin to burn without sunscreen, SPF 15 means it would protect you for 150 minutes.
The SPF rating actually refers to the percentage of UVB rays blocked – the ones that burn. SPF 15 blocks 93 percent of UVB rays. SPF numbers higher than 15 can block 97 to 98 percent of UVB rays.
How effective the SPF level you choose for yourself also depends on how much sunscreen you put on, how long you have been exposed to the sun, the time of day, and even how sensitive your skin is to burning. The general rule is to use at least an SPF 30 broad-spectrum sunscreen.
- Lather your skin with a broad spectrum sunscreen product with at least an SPF value of 15 before going out in the sun – about three tablespoons of product should be enough.
- If you’re in the sun for long periods of time, reapply your sunscreen every couple of hours.
- The sun’s rays are most powerful between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., so try to limit sun exposure during these times of the day.
- Wear a broad-brimmed hat, sunglasses and clothing to cover exposed areas of skin.
Be sure to get out in the fresh air and sunshine. It will do you good. But if you plan to be out in the sun for a long period of time, take along the sunscreen.