Tribune Media Services
Confused by new labels popping up on sunscreen bottles? This year, changes to sunscreen labels are finally showing up on store shelves, as ordered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administra-tion.
One big change: terminology. Sunblock must now be called sunscreen, and the terms "sweat proof" and "waterproof" aren't allowed. The FDA says those labels weren't accurate, so a sunscreen can only be called "water resistant" for either 40 or 80 minutes, and only if it passes an FDA test.
But the more important terms focus on what sunscreen can prevent. For a label to claim the sunscreen can prevent sunburn, the product must pass the sun protection factor (SPF) test. This test shows how long a sunscreen protects you from ultraviolet B (UVB) rays that cause sunburn. SPF levels range from 2 to more than 70. The higher the number, the longer the protection lasts. For a product to claim it can prevent skin cancer, it must pass the broad-spectrum test. This shows if a sunscreen can protect your skin from both ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation, which contributes to skin cancer and early skin aging, and UVB rays.
So what should you look for? Go for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF value of 30 or higher, recommends dermatologist Dr. Kenneth Arndt, a Harvard Medical School professor.
"Apply sunscreen before you go out. Use about a shot-glass full for your entire body. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or sooner if you've been swimming or sweating a lot," says Dr. Arndt. And wear protective clothing, including a hat with a broad brim that covers the ears and back of the neck, and avoid intense sun exposure during the 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. hours.