Memorial Day is the official start of summer. But did you know that the Friday before Memorial Day has been designated as “Don’t Fry Day” by the American Cancer Society and the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention This is a day to raise awareness of sun safety. We like to use the mantra:
SLIP SLAP SLOP WRAP
This is a good time to throw all sunscreen out and buy new. Sunscreens get old too!
It can be confusing looking at the rows of sunscreens on the shelf. Where is the waterproof and sweatproof sunscreen you used to buy? The words “Sunblock”, “Waterproof” and “Prevents Skin Cancer” are no longer permitted on sunscreen labels. Also sunscreens can no longer claim SPF ratings higher than 50. They must now be labeled SPF 50+. The FDA has reviewed all of the ingredients, terms, and policies used in the sunscreen industry to provide consumers the best possible sunscreens. There are five FDA mandates you should be aware of:
- If a product is labeled BROAD SPECTRUM, it is FDA-certified to protect against UVA radiation. The SPF # is the protection against the UVB spectrum.
- A sunscreen may claim to be “WATER RESISTANT”, but must be accompanied by a number specifying either 40 or 80 minutes of protection.
- The terms “Waterproof”, “Instant Protection”, “Sunblock”, “All Day Protection”, and “Sweatproof” are no longer allowed.
- The Drug Facts box is mandatory. It must include the statement that the sunscreen must be re-applied every 2 hours to insure adequate UV protection.
- If the Broad Spectrum Claim is made on the front packaging, the sunscreen may state that within the drug facts box that: “When used as directed with other sun protection measures, this product reduces the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging”.
Additionally, sunscreens with SPF 2-14 will be labeled with the following warning:
“Skin Cancer/Skin Aging Alert: Spending time in the sun increases your risk of skin cancer and early aging. This product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early aging”
There are two types of sunscreens: Physical sunscreens reflect UV radiation away from the skin. These include titanium oxide, zinc oxide, and iron oxide. These are the least irritating and afford the best protection. They are most appropriate for children and infants. Chemical sunscreens absorb UV radiation. They include Oxybenzone, Padimate O, Avobenzone, Dioxybenzone, Homosalate, among other chemicals. They are not heavy or oily, and apply like a moisturizer. However, they have been known to cause irritation and allergic reactions.
Sunscreens should be applied 15 minutes before sun exposure, and re-applied every 2-3 hours while in the sun to obtain maximum protection.
That is the skinny on sunscreen. Not confusing at all.
Now let’s SLIP, SLAP,SLOP, WRAP and get out there and have a safe, fun, and healthy summer!
See Peggy Vernon, RN, MA, C-PNP, DCNP, FAANP speak at the Skin, Bones, Hearts & Private Parts 2017 conference in Nashville, Pensacola, and Orlando (October).