The FDA regulates sunscreens to ensure they meet safety and effectiveness standards. Manufacturers are required to conduct certain tests before their sunscreen products are sold. How you use sunscreen, and what other protective measures you take, makes a difference in how well you are able to protect yourself and your family from sunburn, skin cancer, and early skin aging caused by the sun.
Fact: Broad spectrum sunscreens help protect against both UVA and UVB rays, two types of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. Broad spectrum sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) value of 15 or more reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging when used as directed with other sun protection measures.
More Information: All sunscreens help protect against sunburn. The FDA recommends that you use broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, even on cloudy days. Not all sunscreens have been shown to protect against skin cancer, so it is important to look for a sunscreen that is labeled as broad spectrum and SPF 15 or higher. Broad spectrum sunscreen provides protection against both types of ultraviolet radiation that we are exposed to each day by providing a barrier that absorbs or reflects the UV radiation before it can damage the skin. Sunscreen products that are not broad spectrum or have an SPF of less than 15 must carry the following warning: Spending time in the sun increases your risk of skin cancer and early skin aging. This product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging.
Bottom Line: Only broad spectrum sunscreen products with an SPF of at least 15 have been shown to reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging caused by the sun when used as directed with other sun protection measures.
Fact: People of all skin colors are at risk for skin cancer, skin aging, and sunburn from spending time in the sun.
More Information: Sun exposure can cause sunburn, skin aging (such as skin spots, wrinkles, or “leathery skin”), and skin cancer. This is true for people of all skin colors, and not just people with very light-colored skin. Sunscreens help protect people from sunburn and, for broad spectrum products with an SPF of at least 15, decrease the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging caused by the sun when used as directed with other sun protection measures.
Bottom Line: Spending time in the sun increases your risk of skin cancer and early skin aging, no matter your skin color.
Fact: There’s no such thing as waterproof sunscreen.
More Information: All sunscreens, even those labeled “water resistant,” eventually wash off. Water resistance claims, for 40 or 80 minutes, tell you how much time you can expect to get the labeled SPF-level of protection while moving in and out of the water Manufacturers may not make claims that their sunscreens are “waterproof” or “sweatproof.”
Bottom Line: No sunscreen is waterproof.
Fact: Sunscreens are not recommended for infants younger than 6 months.
More Information: Infants are at greater risk than adults for sunscreen side effects, such as a rash. The FDA recommends that infants be kept out of the sun during the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and to use protective clothing for them if they have to be in the sun. Dress infants in lightweight long pants, long-sleeve shirts, and brimmed hats that shade the neck to prevent sunburn. Ask a doctor before applying sunscreen to children younger than 6 months.
Bottom Line: The best protection for infants is to keep them out of the sun entirely.
- Tips to Stay Safe in the Sun: From Sunscreen to Sunglasses
- Should You Put Sunscreen on Infants? Not Usually