The FDA Is About To Shake Up Your Sunscreen In A Big Way

Photographed by Caroline Tompkins.
You may not have noticed it, but your sunscreen is in need of a major makeover. That’s because, aside from a few small changes made in 2012, the rules for over-the-counter formulas, which are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), largely haven’t changed since the early nineties. Your SPF has basically been wearing The Rachel cut all this time.
But change is on the way. In an announcement made this week, the FDA issued a proposed rule that will update the way our sunscreens are labeled, better address the safety of active ingredients, more clearly indicate which forms of sunscreen (such as lotions or sprays) offer proven protection, and more.
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The goal, according to an FDA statement, is to ensure over-the-counter sunscreens are "up to date with the latest science to better ensure consumers have access to safe and effective preventative sun care options." That means collecting more data for twelve of the sixteen active ingredients that are marketed in sunscreen in the U.S. to get a better read on whether they can be generally recognized as safe and effective. Currently, just two active ingredients have that designation: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

As science and technology have advanced over the past several years to dramatically improve the efficacy of sunscreens, continued evaluation of the regulations associated with them is necessary.

The Skin Cancer Foundation
The new rule also proposes some forms of sunscreens that are less studied (and therefore, less proven to be effective), like wipes, towelettes, body washes, and shampoos, be kicked out of the over-the-counter sunscreen category and dubbed a “new drug” instead. In addition, clearer labeling is proposed that will allow consumers to more easily identify key info (such as putting "broad spectrum" on the front-of-the-label). What's more, any formula labeled “broad spectrum” will have to provide an SPF of 15 or higher, among other proposed changes.
In short, should the proposed rules be enacted, we'll end up with a clearer understanding of what we're buying and of what sunscreen can and can’t do to protect us from UVA and UVB rays. For its part, the Skin Cancer Foundation is on board. In a statement released today, the foundation said, "As science and technology have advanced over the past several years to dramatically improve the efficacy of sunscreens, continued evaluation of the regulations associated with them is necessary, as is the evaluation of new UV filters that are currently available outside the U.S. "
Considering what the last update — which, in 2012, required sunscreen equipped to protect skin from both UVA and UVB rays be labeled “broad spectrum” — did to push makers into producing and consumers into demanding more comprehensive UV protection, we think change will do us good. Here's to a future of smarter, safer sunscreen for all.
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