FDA regulates sunscreens to ensure they meet safety and effectiveness standards. To improve the quality, safety, and effectiveness of sunscreens, FDA posted a proposed order on September 24, 2021 that describes updated proposed requirements for sunscreens. Given the recognized public health benefits of sunscreen use, Americans should continue to use sunscreen with other sun protective measures as this important effort moves forward.
As an FDA-regulated product, sunscreens must pass certain tests before they are sold. But how you use this product, and what other protective measures you take, make a difference in how well you are able to protect yourself and your family from sunburn, skin cancer, early skin aging and other risks of overexposure to the sun. Some key sun safety tips include:
- Limit time in the sun, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s rays are most intense.
- Wear clothing to cover skin exposed to the sun, such as long-sleeved shirts, pants, sunglasses, and broad-brimmed hats.
- Use broad spectrum sunscreens with SPF values of 15 or higher regularly and as directed.
- Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours, and more often if you’re sweating or jumping in and out of the water.
How to apply and store sunscreen
- Apply 15 minutes before you go outside. This allows the sunscreen (of SPF 15 or higher) to have enough time to provide the maximum benefit.
- Use enough to cover your entire face and body (avoiding the eyes and mouth). An average-sized adult or child needs at least one ounce of sunscreen (about the amount it takes to fill a shot glass) to evenly cover the body from head to toe.
There’s no such thing as waterproof sunscreen
People should also be aware that no sunscreens are “waterproof.” All sunscreens eventually wash off. Sunscreens labeled “water resistant” are required to be tested according to the required SPF test procedure. The labels are required to state whether the sunscreen remains effective for 40 minutes or 80 minutes when swimming or sweating, and all sunscreens must provide directions on when to reapply.
Storing your sunscreen
To keep your sunscreen in good condition, the FDA recommends that sunscreen containers should not be exposed to direct sun. Protect the sunscreen by wrapping the containers in towels or keeping them in the shade. Sunscreen containers can also be kept in coolers while outside in the heat for long periods of time. This is why all sunscreen labels must say: “Protect the product in this container from excessive heat and direct sun.”
Sunscreens are not recommended for infants. 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 if they have to be in the sun. Infants are at greater risk than adults of sunscreen side effects, such as a rash. The best protection for infants is to keep them out of the sun entirely. Ask a doctor before applying sunscreen to children under six months of age.
For children over the age of six months, the FDA recommends using sunscreen as directed on the Drug Facts label.