How to Read Sunscreen Labels

July 23, 2014 / Kristy Huffman,RN

How to Read Sunscreen Labels

Finding the right sunscreen can be very overwhelming, especially when there are so many different types on the market advertising different health claims. However, many claims are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and their claims are misleading.

Here are a few common ones

Claim: SPF 100

Most people assume that a higher SPF means increased effectiveness. However the FDA has proposed limiting the maximum SPF sunscreen value to 50+ because of the lack of evidence that demonstrates higher numbers are more effective. In addition, there is concern that people may think they can stay in the sun longer and dismiss the need to reapply.

Claim: Pediatrician recommended

This suggests an extra level of safety for the sunscreen; on the other hand the FDA doesn’t require children’s sunscreens to meet higher safety standards then adults. It’s not odd that pediatricians recommend specific brands because sunscreen manufacturers market heavily to dermatologists and pediatricians.

Claim: Hypoallergenic or sensitive

All it really means is that manufacturers test different target audiences, but the formulation is usually the same. Sunscreen allergies are less than 1 percent of all skin allergies. There is no guarantee that you won’t experience a reaction when using a hypoallergenic sunscreen. Conversely, it doesn’t mean if you use a sunscreen that does not claim to be hypoallergenic you will experience a reaction.

Claim: Sport

For the most part “sport” means sweat and water resistant. Manufacturers say claims are proved through testing, but most water-resistant products probably satisfy the same purpose.

Bottom-line: Covering up is the best way to protect your skin, especially when UV rays are the strongest which is between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. When you use sunscreen - use it liberally! You should apply about 2/3 of a shotglass to your face and body and reapply after 2 hours of being in the sun. Use a broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF of a least 30. Broad spectrum protects your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. And finally, select a sunscreen you like to help ensure you to use it!

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Category: Children / Safety