In an industry where things are constantly evolving and new launches hit shelves at a rapid-fire pace, sunscreen is one beauty product category that has largely remained unchanged. There were some laws passed in the ‘90s and a few small changes made back in 2012, but other than that, the rules and regulations for sunblock are somewhat antiquated. That’s why it’s big news that the FDA recently proposed a new sunscreen rule. (As a quick reminder, sunscreen is considered an over-the-counter drug and as such is controlled by the FDA.)
Call it a serious SPF shake-up.
The new rule would implement some major changes across the entire category – think updated labeling requirements, as well as redefining what can actually be called sunscreen. Oils, creams, lotions, sticks, sprays, and powders could be, while other forms, namely towelettes and wipes, could no longer be dubbed “sunscreen” and would instead be considered a “new drug.” (The thought process being that because these alternate forms are less studied, their efficacy is also less proven.)
The max SPF would also be capped at 60+, so all those SPF 70s and SPF 100s you can currently buy would be no more, since the FDA has found no significant increase in protection from anything higher than an SPF 60. It’s previously been found that SPF 15 protects against 93 percent of UVB rays, SPF 30 protects against 97 percent, and SPF 50 is about 98 percent. Because no product can be 100 percent effective, anything higher makes little difference.
But perhaps the biggest buzz is surrounding the efficacy of active sunscreen ingredients. The FDA studied 16 of the most commonly used ones. Of these, two were considered ineffective; though these were outdated ones that companies aren’t even really using these days. Only two were deemed GRASE, aka FDA speak for “generally recognized as safe and effective.” These were zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, the blockers found in mineral sunscreen formulas, which work by sitting on top of your skin and deflecting the suns’ rays. The efficacy of the remaining 12, which include the actives found in chemical sunscreen formulas, is still being investigated.
So, what’s the big takeaway for anyone shopping for sunscreen? It’s important to keep in mind that, at least for now, this is just a proposed rule, so we don’t know yet for sure when -- or even if -- all of these changes will go into effect. That being said, first and foremost, you should be wearing a broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen every single day (and that’s not just our take on the matter, but the recommendation of legit organizations, such as the Skin Cancer Foundation and the American Academy of Dermatology).
Per these new findings, it may not be a bad move to make that sunscreen a mineral formula. Not only can you feel confident knowing that there’s no question as to whether or not it’s going to be effective thanks to these latest findings, but they also have other benefits, such as being less likely to cause breakouts or irritation. Above all, find a formula you like and use it. Please and thank you.