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Posted: 1:54 p.m. Tuesday, June 21, 2011

New FDA guidelines for sunscreen

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Just in time for summer, new FDA guidelines are out that clarify what the labeling on sunscreen packages actual means and what kind of protections a sunscreen will offer.

My wife and I have had some pretty strident disagreements about sunscreen for our children. I buy discount sunscreen at dollar stores for $1 and she goes for very pricey sunscreen sets at the warehouse clubs for about $8. The question is do they both offer the same protection?

The FDA has stepped in as mediator in the Howard household (and for the rest of America!) to issue new guidelines that sunscreen manufacturers must follow. (If you think the feds move slowly, it only took them 33 years to write the new sunscreen standards. Every time they tried, people would start crying that they didn't like where the rules were headed.)

The new standard is actually really simple. Beginning in a year, if a sunscreen product says "broad spectrum protection," that means it will protect you from rays of sun that can cause cancer or premature aging of skin. Period. Broad spectrum protection indicates the product blocks UVA and UVB rays and has a minimum SPF of 15.

Going forward, products that offer only an SPF of 14 or below will carry a warning saying they have not been shown to help prevent skin cancer or premature aging.

There's also a proposal on the table to ban SPFs that are higher than 50. Any number higher than 50 is "pointless," according to what one dermatologist at Johns Hopkins University told The New York Times. But at this point, it is just a proposal.

Remember, applying sunscreen is one area where you can't slack. Too much is not enough. You really want to slather it on. You also might want to consider using a spray formula to get the job done, though the FDA jury is out on whether spraying adequately covers the skin.

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