Sunscreen – How does Sunscreen Work?

We all enjoy going out on a sunny day, whether to garden, go to the beach, or just for a walk, and we have trained ourselves to slap on the sunscreen before venturing outdoors, but have you ever wondered just how much protection does sunscreen really give? Did you know that the label of your favorite brand of sunscreen does not tell you what amount of protection you are actually getting from it? Well if a newly proposed. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rule for sunscreen products is adopted, we will have that information on every bottle, and will be able to understand it in a much clearer way.

One million people in North America will be diagnosed with some type of skin cancer this year, and that is far too many. Excessive exposure to UV radiation is the one most important preventable cause of skin cancer. It is common knowledge that the effects of sunlight damage on our bodies is growing every year, due to lowered ozone levels that allow more of the harmful rays though the earths atmosphere.

The newly proposed rule seeks to establish standards for testing, formulating, and labelling all over-the-counter sunscreen products with ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) protection. UVA light is responsible for tanning and UVB light is responsible for sunburn. Both of these types of light will damage the skin and increase the risk of skin cancer with over exposure.

Presently, the only way for consumers to find out the level of UVB protection in their sunscreen product is by its SPF or, sun protection factor.

This new rating would establish a scale of one to four stars. One star on the label would represent low UVA protection, two stars on the label would represent medium protection, three stars on the label would represent high protection and, of course, four stars would represent the highest UVA protection that available in an over-the-counter Sunscreen product. The FDA is also proposing that the product, if it does not have at least a low level or one star of protection, that the manufacturers will be required to have a “NO UVA PROTECTION” marking on the front label adjacent to the SPF value.

The FDA is also proposing a required warning statement to be placed in the “Drug Facts” box for all sunscreen product manufacturers. The warning will state: “UV Exposure from the sun increases the risk of skin cancer, premature skin Aging, and other skin damage. It is important to decrease UV exposure by Limiting time in the sun, wearing protective clothing, and using a Sunscreen.” The warning is being put on the label to remind people that sunscreens are only a part of a sun protection program.

With over one million cases of skin cancer in North America alone, I feel that these measures will dispel any worries about what exactly the protection is that we are getting in our over the counter sunscreens. This proposal is an excellent step towards letting the consumer take control of the amount of protection that they put on themselves daily. I hope that it goes through and is implemented quickly. The idea of a symbol being used (Stars) is genius, giving people of any age, including children, the knowledge they need to be proactive in the fight against skin cancer. Of course, labeling “sunscreen” that has no UVB protection in it is no-brainer, and an excellent idea. There are many varieties of sunscreen at the market, and being able to simply make a wise and knowledgeable choice about how much protection you want cannot be anything but a good idea.