Blumenthal, Dermatologist Urge Improved Sunscreen Labeling in Advance of Summer Beach Season

(Hartford, CT) – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) joined Dr. Philip E. Kerr, Associate Professor of Dermatology at the UConn Health Center Thursday in praising new sunscreen labeling requirements, while urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to take additional measures to protect consumers and require better accuracy regarding sun protection factor labeling. Further, Blumenthal called for strong and stringent enforcement of the new requirements, and cautioned consumers that sunscreen on the shelf may continue to have outdated labels as the new regulations are phased in. “As we go into the summer beach season, consumers must have access to clear and consistent information about their sunscreen purchases. It is alarming and appalling that sunscreen makers have been allowed for years to make misleading claims about the protection they offer, and I applaud the FDA for finally taking action to stop this abuse. I will work to ensure these new standards are stringently and consistently enforced,” Blumenthal said. “Consumers rely on labels to make critical decisions about how they protect themselves and their families, and this information must be accurate. While recent actions by the FDA are a major step forward, and will undoubtedly improve health and save lives, there are still improvements that must be made, particularly regarding the accuracy of sun protection factor labeling.”

Late last year, the FDA finalized new labeling requirements on sunscreen to provide consumers clearer and more consistent information about the sunscreen they purchase. Prior to these new rules, sunscreen makers could make various misleading claims on their bottles, including claiming their products were waterproof when they were not, and that they protected against cancer when they did not. New regulations include:

• In order for sunscreens to say they offer "Broad Spectrum" protection they must block both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays cause skin aging; UVB rays cause sunburn. Both can cause cancer.

• Products with SPFs below 15 must display a warning that it has not been shown to help prevent skin cancer or early skin aging.

• The terms "sunblock," "sweatproof," and "waterproof" will no longer permitted. Sunscreens may claim to be "water-resistant," but must specify whether they protect skin for 40 or 80 minutes of swimming or sweating, based on standard testing.

• Products may no longer claim to provide sun protection for more than two hours without submitting test results to prove it. "While the new regulations went into effect late last year, sunscreen on the shelf may still have outdated labels and consumers should continue to be vigilant," Blumenthal cautioned.

While these new regulations are a life-saving improvement, Senator Blumenthal joined Senate colleagues this month in urging the FDA to require further labeling accuracy with regards to “sun protection factors.” Current labeling can be confusing, as higher numbers do not necessarily correlate with proportionally stronger protection. Further, the senators urged the FDA to provide a plan for review of new sunscreen ingredients that could offer stronger protections. Blumenthal was joined on the letter by Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-NY), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

Consumers seeking maximum protection should purchase sunscreen that provides “broad spectrum” protection and offers SPFs of 50 or higher. Any sunscreen (even those with high SPFs) should be reapplied every two hours or after swimming.