The FDA released new sunscreen guidelines last week, and though they won't be effective until summertime next year, they do raise some important considerations for those of you trying to figure out how to pick a sunscreen for this year's summer fun.
Perhaps the biggest change brought by the new sunscreen guidelines is to sunscreen's SPF labeling.
As you may know, there are two types of ultraviolent light--A and B (UVA, UVB). UVB causes sunburns, whereas UVA causes skin cancer.
SPF only warns you about a sunscreen's ability to fend off UVB light, not cancer-causing UVA.
While you should be looking for products that affirmatively state that they protect against both, starting in 2012, NPR reports that instead you should be looking for products labeled "broad spectrum."
To adorn this label, a sunscreen must offer both UVA and UVB protection. As of now, this is not a requirement.
By summer 2012, you also won't see any sunscreens with an SPF value over 50. Finding that there is no evidence that higher numbers offer more protection, the FDA has decided to institute an SPF number cap.
You also won't be seeing anymore claims of waterproof sunscreen. While sunscreen can be somewhat water resistant, a dip or two in the pool will render it obsolete, meaning that you actually need to reapply more often than a label may imply.
For more information on the FDA's new sunscreen guidelines, take a peek at their website. For help choosing a sunscreen, talk to your physician.