Beauty editors love to talk about sunblock. We can analyze sun protection factors like some guys dissect baseball stats. We can tell you the difference between ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays (and why you should care). And we can disprove and debunk most every myth out there (including the fact that tanning beds will NEVER be safe or healthy to use—no matter who you heard it from). But it doesn’t add up to a whole hill of beans if shoppers aren’t plucking the right, sun-safe formulas off the shelves and actually using them.
But that’s about to change: This summer the new FDA-mandated labeling information goes into effect. Now only sunscreens with an SPF 15 or higher that have passed new, stricter testing guidelines can be classified as “broad spectrum.” If you only remember one thing about sunscreen, make it this: Broad spectrum is your assurance the formulation offers enough UVA and UVB protection to shield you from sunburn and reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging when used as directed. Furthermore, brands can no longer claim to be “waterproof,” “sweatproof,” a “sunblock,” or promise to last longer than two hours without the necessary reapplication. The term “water resistant” is A-OK, so long as it notes how long the lotion stays effective (40 or 80 minutes) post-swim or sweat.
What we haven’t seen the end of (yet) are those sky-high SPF 100s—even though doctors maintain they offer little more protection than an SPF 50 (but leave consumers thinking they deliver iron-clad protection, a proposal to cap the numbers at “50+” is still on the table). Stay tuned.