New federal standards for the labels on your sunscreen are coming to a drug store shelf near you.
The Food and Drug Administration is trying to make sunscreen less confusing for American consumers. The idea is to make sunscreen products more effective and easier to use.
For example, FOX23 News bought a can of Neutrogena "Ultimate Sport Sunblock Spray" for $13.89. The label on the can says the product is "ultra sweatproof," "waterproof," and has an SPF of "100+."
But, the FDA thinks those terms are confusing, and could even mistakenly lead sunbathers to believe they don't need to 'reapply' throughout the day.
That's why the agency has unveiled new regulations and guidelines that will require new labeling standards, and mandate that sunscreen manufacturers test their products' effectiveness against sun rays that pose the greatest risk of skin cancer or ultraviolet A rays.
The mandatory change means, one year from now, the wording on that same can of Neutrogena sunblock will have to be completely different.
Some Capital Region sunbathers have come up with their own strategy for choosing an SPF and protecting skin, especially their kids' skin, from sunburn.
Romana Danicova of Colonie has a fair-skinned 13-month-old son named Lucas. She said, "I usually put anything around 30, 40, 50, 60 (SPF) on him, depending on the weather and everything."
When asked if she re-applies the sunscreen 'often' she said, "It depends. Usually when he goes in the water I do."
Bridget Kelly of Schenectady is also very sun-conscious about the children she cares for. She said, "They do have fair skin, and I just reapply often, every four hours if they're out in the sun during the day."
When asked what number SPF she typically buys, she said, "Usually 35. I use 30 or above."
As it turns out, despite what the FDA is calling confusing product labels, both moms are on the right track.
But the agency hopes the changed labeling will help cut the confusion.
By this time next year, terms like "waterproof," "sweatproof" and SPF's higher than 50 will be prohibited.
And those aren't the only changes on the way.
Under the rule changes, sunscreens with an SPF lower than 15, or that don't protect against both ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays will be required to carry a warning label.
Albany Dermatologist Dr. Teddy Pan thinks that's a big step in the right direction.
Dr. Pan said, "Well, I think that people were confused by the waterproofing and the sweatproof (labels). They figure that when they go and they swim, they don't need to reapply their sunscreen afterwards."
But Dr. Pan says reapplication of the product every two hours is actually the key to staying sun safe. "Look for a sunscreen that is 'broad spectrum,' and has an SPF rating of greater than 30," he said. "I always recommend re-applying your sunscreen every two hours, and generally after swimming or excessive sweating."
Dr. Pan also recommends limiting your sun exposure between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and choosing what you wear carefully.
He suggests carrying a hat with you, and even investing in 'sun-protective' clothing, or shirts and pants with SPF built right into the fabric.
The FDA mandated changes to sunscreen labels will appear on store shelves by July of 2012.