Four years after the FDA originally proposed a regulatory campaign on sunscreen, the agency has released a set of rules for the packaging and labeling of sunscreen products. The traditional way that sun-bathing consumers purchase their products is looking at the sun protection factor (SPF). However, the FDA says the SPF refers only to UVB rays, which specifically cause sunburn and skin cancer, but longer-wavelength UVA rays can also cause health problems, including premature aging and, again, skin cancer.
The regulatory regime’s role begins with requiring companies to indicate whether their products provide protection from UVA rays, in addition to UVB rays. To determine whether the FDA has given its “stamp of approval,” you will see “Broad Spectrum SPF” on the products label, which will ensure the sunscreen protects the skin from both types of radiation.
Another rule, the FDA will cap SPF levels at 50 (though this rule has not yet received final confirmation), as the bureaucratic agency claims there is not enough data to prove that higher SPF products provide a significant amount more protection. Sunsreen manufacturers may label their products as water-resistant, but the label must show whether it will last 40 minutes or 80 minutes while sweating or being in water.
And finally, sunscreen labels will no longer display selling points such as “waterproof” or “sweatproof,” because, according to the FDA, “these claims overstate their effectiveness.”
This reminds me of Christopher Buckley’s book, Thank you for Smoking, where the Democrat Senator from Vermont pushed to slap a giant skull and crossbones on the front of cigarette packs. The difference is, the FDA and its agenda to regulate sunscreen is not a satire.