As thousands of Oklahomans work outdoors cleaning up after recent storms, a real hazard to keep in mind is sunburn. Dermatologists recommend applying at least SPF 30 broad spectrum sunscreen every hour or so to protect your skin from the sun's damaging rays.
To make sure you're using proper sunscreen, new rules from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will mean changes in labeling and usage recommendations for manufacturers. The changes are intended to clarify some of the ambiguous and misleading terms formerly used on sunscreen labels.
“The FDA is tightening down what you can say about your sunscreen,” said Dr. Raymond Cornelison, an Oklahoma City dermatologist. “It's kind of like quicksand; it's been really difficult to get science behind the claims.”
Gone from labels will be the terms “waterproof,” “sweatproof” and “sunblock.” Since no sunscreen is actually waterproof, you'll see instead the term “water resistant.” Manufacturers also can't claim they begin protecting skin immediately.
Now, when you see the term “broad spectrum,” you can theoretically be assured that the product will protect you against both UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreens that are not broad spectrum (protecting only against UVB rays) and contain SPF values from two to 14 will require a warning on the package that reads “Skin Cancer/Skin Aging Alert: Spending time in the sun increases your risk of skin cancer and early skin aging. This product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging.”
According to the FDA.gov website, “all sunscreen products offer protection against UVB rays, which are the primary cause of sunburn. But both UVB and UVA rays contribute to sun-induced skin cancer and premature skin aging.
“Based on scientific studies, we have determined that broad spectrum sunscreens with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 can help reduce the risk of sun-induced skin cancer and premature skin aging when used with sun protective measures, as directed,” said Reynold Tan, Ph.D., a scientist in FDA's Division of Nonprescription Regulation Development, on the website. “We hope consumers use the information to make good choices.”
For sunscreen spray products, the agency expresses concern about the safety of the products if inhaled or sprayed on inadequately.
Here, we bust some common sunscreen myths, gathered from various sources:
Myth: It's overcast out, the kids don't need sunscreen.
Truth: The problem is that clouds are no shield for ultraviolet rays.
“So even though it could be overcast, you're still getting plenty of ultraviolet light,” said Dr. Raymond Cornelison, an Oklahoma City dermatologist. “So you do need a sunscreen even in cloudy weather.”
Myth: Kids get sunburned all the time but this doesn't raise their risk for skin cancer as an adult.