POWAY, Calif. -- New rules for sunscreen labeling drafted by the Federal Drug Administration in 2011 will take effect this summer.
"It's good because they're trying to make order before there was no order. The FDA is also giving the consumer some guidelines and awareness," said Dr. Anna Di Nardo, a University of California, San Diego dermatologist.
Sunscreens are considered a cosmetic, which is why they haven't had much government oversight in the recent years. The FDA hasn't changed its recommendations for sunscreens in 33 years.
Many in the skin care field say the sunscreen market has become inundated with options, which is leading to misinformation.
"Sunscreens have come so far. The technologies for them are so advanced, you can literally find one for your skin type," said Katie Pfadenhauer, a professional skin therapist at Le Salon Du Kat in Poway. "At the same time, most people buy what they don't need."
Pfadenhauer helps people understand their skin type and often sees people with significant sun damage. Part of her mission as a skin therapist is to educate people about their skin and provide simple ways to improve its condition.
SPF ratings are one of the biggest misconceptions the FDA is clarifying. Starting this summer, companies will not be able to label a sunscreen as anything higher than SPF 50+. That's because it's virtually impossible to be any more efficient past an SPF 50 rating, Pfadenhauer said.
According to federal health officials, SPF 15 blocks roughly 94 percent of the sun's harmful rays. SPF 30 blocks roughly 97 percent of the harmful rays, and SPF 50 blocks 98 percent of rays.
In order for sunscreens to be labeled as "Broad Spectrum" they must block both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays are longer and cause aging in skin. UVB rays are shorter and are responsible for sunburn. Both are dangerous, cause cancer, and need to be blocked in the sun, according to Dr. Di Nardo.
The FDA also recommended that people reapply every 40 to 80 minutes depending on activity.
"The average person should use about a shot glass worth of sunscreen on their body, and anywhere from a teaspoon to tablespoon on their face," said Pfadenhauer. "Sunscreen in your makeup doesn't count."
Companies are also not allowed to label their sunscreens as "waterproof". Sunscreens can only be labeled as "water resistant."
Dr. Di Nardo recommends San Diegans stick with an SPF 30 because of the region's daily sunshine.
"A tan might look nice, but in reality, it's a disorder. It's an immune system response, which is why your skin gets that leathery type of appearance," she said. "Sunscreen is not just when you're outside swimming or playing, it's a daylight defense."
Le Salon Du Kat provides face mapping for free, essentially a guideline to what your skin needs to improve. Pfadenhauer also has a special black light that will show sun damage that could potential turn into cancer.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times