FILED IN: Health

Sunscreen labels may be lying

Sunscreen claims may be exaggerated. Photo by Prashant Jambunathan.

As summer looms closer and closer, those of us with fair skin have already begun our annual desperate run to find some sunscreen. It’s not easy, either, with sunscreen bottles making claims about being waterproof, long lasting, SPF 9,406, cancer-preventing and whatever else they think will make them stand out on the shelf. Now, to make matters worse, it appears that even the more conservative of these claims may be completely false.

Let’s take the “waterproof” claim, for example. The FDA has labeled the waterproof claim to be “misleading and false.” David Andrews of the Environmental Working Group says there’s no such thing as waterproof sunscreen. Every single sunscreen shares a characteristic– “at some point it will rub off and dissolve into the water.”

When a sunscreen claims to offer broad spectrum protection, they seem to be implying that they protect against skin cancer, aging and sunburn. Unfortunately, this is also sometimes a bit of a stretch. Suncreens with SPF 15 or lower can protect against sunburn, but they do nothing for preventing wrinkles and skin cancer. Also, there are some sunscreens that protect against UVB rays, but not UVA rays, but both  damage the skin.

In 2011, the FDA demanded that sunscreen makers update their labels to be more accurate. Among the new FDA requirements is a “test method to demonstrate that a sunscreen product provides ‘broad spectrum’ protection, which is protection against both UVB and UVA radiation.” Sunscreen manufacturers have until this summer to update their labels in accordance with the new rules.

The new regulations have met with some resistance, and some companies have asked for more time, claiming they couldn’t comply with the regulations by this summer. The FDA has extended the deadlines for these companies to get their labels into compliance until December. The FDA told ABC News, “we think that the data they have submitted does adequately support delaying compliance date…You are already starting to see some of these new testing and labeling requirements being implemented.” They further said that without allowing the extension, there could have been a sunscreen shortage this summer.

For now, some of the sunscreen products in stores have accurate labels and others do not, and there’s no way for the consumer to know which is which. Kinda makes your skin burn, doesn’t it?