Some of the most popular sunscreen lotions on the market might not adequately protect against cancer, the Federal Drug Administration acknowledged when it release new sunblock regulations last week.
To understand why requires some science. There are two types of ultraviolet rays from sunlight that cause skin aging and cancer: UVA rays and UVB rays. The typical sunscreen lotion protects against UVB, which causes sunburns, but not necessarily to UVA, which also causes skin cancer.
Next year, the FDA will require a stricter test for all sunscreens to ensure they protect against both ultraviolet wavelengths. They are also proposing to make SPF 50 the highest possible rating.
"Consumers should look for a product labeled 'broad spectrum' in the same font, color and size as the SPF label," the FDA's Dr. Reynold Tan said. "These are the only products that are proven to protect against both skin cancer and sunburns, both UVA and UVB rays."
If the bottle does not say "Broad Spectrum SPF 15" or higher, then the product only protects against sunburn, and the FDA will require a warning label. Bottles marked simply "SPF 30" or "Broad Spectrum SPF 10" are not known to adequately protect against cancer or aging.
HOW SPF IS MEASURED (AND WHAT THE NUMBERS REALLY MEAN)