The New Sunscreen Rules Decoded

In June, the FDA will begin enforcing new regulations for the labeling of over-the-counter sunscreen. Elizabeth Dehn breaks down the rules.

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May is Melanoma Awareness Month, and while sun exposure warnings might seem like old hat to everyone but the New Jersey mom who allegedly took her six-year-old daughter into a tanning booth, a new study by the Skin Cancer Foundation revealed an alarming rise in melanoma among people ages 18 to 39. Over the past 40 years, rates of this potentially-deadly skin cancer grew eightfold among young women and fourfold among young men.

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Right on cue, effective June 2012, the FDA will begin enforcing new regulations for the labeling of over-the-counter sunscreens. Here's what you need to know to ensure you're sufficiently covered:

1. Avoid products with an SPF value lower than 15, which do not pass the new "Broad Spectrum" testing requirements. Such products have been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or premature skin-aging.

2. If you're planning to break a sweat or go for a swim, look for products labeled "water resistant." It's no longer legal to use the terms "sunblock," "waterproof," and "sweatproof" on labels.

3. Labels must indicate the duration of water-resistance provided by the product — either 40 or 80 minutes.

4. Products that claim to provide sun protection greater than SPF 50 may only be labeled as SPF 50+ as there is no compelling evidence that an SPF greater than 50 makes any real difference.

Elizabeth Dehn is the editor-in-chief of Beauty Bets, an award-winning blog chock-full of product reviews, wellness tips, and DIY ideas.

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