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Importance of SPF and FDA Regulations

Updated: Sep 10

The regular and almost religious use of SPF is the only way you can truly and completely protect yourself from those dangerous UVA and UVB rays. Did you know that even casual exposure to the sun can do irreparable damage to your skin?


Jun 3, 2020 10:17:33 AM / by The Institute of Skin Science

Summer is right around the corner and there’s nothing better than having a beautiful, golden tan. It makes you look healthy, active, and you’ll be envied by all those around you. They’ll be wondering what wonderful tropical vacation you’ve been on to achieve that glow. However, as they may or may not know that tan that you think makes you look so healthy is actually one of the most unhealthy and potentially fatal things you can do to your body. Let’s look at some facts from skincancer.org. Did you know that one person dies of melanoma every hour (57 minutes)? Or that more people develop skin cancer because of tanning than develop lung cancer because of smoking? Or what about the fact that over the past three decades, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined. The regular, and almost religious, use of SPF is the only way you can truly and completely protect yourself from those dangerous UVA and UVB rays. Did you know that even casual exposure to the sun can do irreparable damage to your skin? Just a ten minute drive with the sun coming through your window (which provides no protection), can scramble the DNA in your cells causing damage or cellular death. This will lead to hyperpigmentation, premature aging, and skin cancer. Making sunscreen part of your everyday regimen will save you a lot of grief later on in life. We live in a society that demands instant gratification which is why, I believe, so many people are so dismissive when it comes to sun damage. They believe that if they can’t immediately see damage on their skin then it isn’t happening, and this just isn’t the case. Within the last few years the FDA has taken a more in-depth look at over-the-counter SPFs and made adjustments to their requirements. This has been a blessing because it is forcing people to increase their awareness and knowledge on the subject. The FDA has stated the following: “To help consumers select and use sunscreens appropriately, the final regulations include these additional labeling provisions:

  • Products that pass the broad spectrum test will provide protection against both ultraviolet B radiation (UVB) and ultraviolet A radiation (UVA). Sunburn is primarily caused by UVB. Both UVB and UVA can cause sunburn, skin cancer, and premature skin aging. A certain percentage of a broad spectrum product’s total protection is against UVA. .

  • Under the new regulations, sunscreen products that protect against all types of sun-induced skin damage will be labeled ‘Broad Spectrum’ and ‘SPF 15’ (or higher) on the front. The new labeling will also tell consumers on the back of the product that sunscreens labeled as both ‘Broad Spectrum’ and ‘SPF 15’ (or higher) not only protect against sunburn, but, if used as directed with other sun protection measures, can reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging. For these broad spectrum products, higher SPF (Sun Protection Factor) values also indicate higher levels of overall protection. .

  • Sunscreen products that are not broad spectrum or that are broad spectrum with SPF values from 2 to 14 will be labeled with a warning 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.’ .

  • Water resistance claims on the product’s front label must tell how much time a user can expect to get the declared SPF level of protection while swimming or sweating, based on standard testing. Two different times will be permitted on labels: 40 minutes or 80 minutes. .

  • Manufacturers cannot make claims that sunscreens are ‘waterproof’ or ‘sweat proof’ or identify their products as ‘sun blocks.’ Also, sunscreens cannot claim protection immediately on application (for example, ‘instant protection’) or protection for more than two hours without reapplication, unless they submit data and get approval from the FDA.”

The FDA has done as much as they can to make us aware and protect us from harmful UV damage, but now it’s up to us to utilize that information. Many people think of skin cancer as an ugly mole or mark that needs to be removed; if only that were all you had to worry about. According to skincancer.org  “an estimated 100,350 new cases of invasive melanoma will be diagnosed in the US in 2020. An estimated 6,850 people will die of melanoma in 2020.” Keeping yourself protected from a sunburn isn’t the most important thing. Your skin can and will be harmed from sun exposure even if you don’t physically see a burn. It’s important to understand that a sunburn is a reaction you’ll see immediately, but damage from the sun happens over a lifetime.


Written by The Institute of Skin Science

Importance of SPF and FDA Regulations
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