FDA Changes the SPF Number

I went to MAC the other day to purchase my favorite BB Cream with the SPF of 50.  I kept looking at the testers that the store had on display and could only find SPF 35 in my Medium Dark BB Cream.  This young, Bettie Paige, MAC representative approached me, wearing her hair in a sultry pinup design and flashy red lips, asking if I needed her help.  I told her I needed the BB Cream that had the 50 SPF, she dropped her head down and let out an apologetic sigh as she told me that MAC no longer sales anything over a SPF of 35 because of the new FDA (Federal Drug Administration) regulations.

Banana Boat had 2 other sunscreens along with the Sport, “Kids” and “Ultra Defense”.

Remembering back to a recent training I was in for a skincare line from Barcelona that was making its way into the states, they addressed the new regulations in regards to sunscreen.   For years sunscreen has been used by millions of people and within the last decade it has seemed that the SPF number has kept rising from 4, 8, 15, 20, 25, 35, 45, 50, 60, 70, 85, 100 and there even existed a sunscreen that had an SPF of 110, made by two well known skincare brands, Banana Boat and Neutrogena.  Now the FDA has decided to put a SPF limit on the manufacturer and that limit is 35.

After the new ruling in 2011, this is how a sunscreen bottle was to be manufactured for consumers.

Back on June 14, 2011, the FDA issued new rules for sunscreen:

“New labeling and testing requirements are effective for all sunscreen products. Many common phrases used on sunscreen products, such as “sunblock,” “waterproof,” “prevents skin cancer,” etc. are no longer permitted by U.S. FDA. In addition, specific testing must be completed for each sunscreen product before other claims about the product’s UVA and UVB protection can be made.”

When they wrote this statement back in 2011, no where did they state anything about the SPF number being a factor.  As I was researching the FDA website I was not able to find any updated contact that stated the implementation of this new regulation so I will address what was shared with me during my product training course. What exactly is SPF?  SPF stands for, Sun Protection Factor, and was presented in 1962 as a way to measure a sunscreen’s effect against UVB light rays.  For the longest time there have only been two categories of light, UVB and UVA, now there is a third, UVC. The UVB rays cause sunburn on the skin whereas UVA rays are able to penetrate farther into the skin causing more damage such as premature aging.UVC is a new forum in the skincare world because UVC rays are the shortest rays.  This means that unlike UVA and UVB wavelengths that are long enough to penetrate through the ozone, UVC rays have not been able to break through the ozone as of yet, although some people may disagree.  Scientists are concerned about the thinning of the ozone layer due to the industrialization the world has gone through and sees no signs of it slowing down which could possibly emit a third kind of ultraviolet ray, UVC, through to earth and touch our skin.

Sunscreen is important to wear because it is able to assist in the blocking of these ultraviolet rays both physically and chemically.

Urban Defense is among many skincare companies providing a tinted SPF moisturizer.

Chemical sunscreen has special ingredients in it that act as filters and reduce ultraviolet radiation penetration to the skin.  Physical sunscreen acts more as a sunblock, it contains ingredients such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide which physically blocks the ultraviolet radiation.  The titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are so thick that they are not able to rub all the way into the skin leaving a white film.  Companies have gotten wise and started tinting their sunscreen to take away from the unpleasing aesthetic white look it leaves.  That is why more and more companies have tinted their sunscreen, this way the skin looks great and is receiving a broad spectrum sunscreen that is effective for protecting the skin against harmful sun rays.

Tinted moisturizer, lip balm, spray on sunscreen and regular sunscreen.

Now knowing what SPF is, let me talk to you about the numbers. What does it mean if a product has an SPF of 10 in comparison to a product that has an SPF 30?  All this means is that your skin is able to exposed to sun a little longer.The numbers stand for duration, a certain amount of time your skin will be protected.  There is a certain formula for the numbers that is quite involved and unless you have taken calculus and understand logarithms and derivatives then I will explain in a much more simpler version. Most of us are guilty of not applying sunscreen and in return ending up with an undesirable sunburn.  How long was your skin exposed before you received that sunburn or even just a little bit of redness on the skin?  If you were out in the sun for 10 minutes before you received the sunburn then you take that 10 minutes and multiply it by the SPF number you have in your product.  For example if you were to have a sunscreen with an SPF of 35 then you would take 10 (from the 10 minutes without sunscreen before burning) and multiply it by 35 (the SPF number in your sunscreen, 10 x 35 = 350.  The total number of 350 is the amount of minutes your skin is protected before you need to apply more sunscreen.  That would approximately allow your skin protection for about 5 hours, taking away some minutes due to sweat and other ways your sunscreen could be rubbed off of the skin. The SPF number is a great ideal for the amount of time your skin has the ability to be protected from the sun but it does not guarantee that your skin won’t be exposed to UVA and UVB rays.  Your activity level that you partake in causing sweat will take the sunscreen off faster, water can wash away the sunscreen and also too much contact on the skin from either your hands rubbing on it or clothes and other items could cause the sunscreen to come off faster.  That is why it is important to reapply your sunscreen after vigorous activities, swimming and when you notice your skin receiving the slightest sunburn shade.

What rating would you give your sunscreen?

The FDA is also going to be rating sunscreens on a scale of 1-4.  The sun protection factor will be rated as to how good of protection the product has.  As with any rating, the higher the number the better.  So far, I have not seen any products with an FDA approved rating but this is something to be looking forward to in the very near future.

It’s all fun until someone gets a sunburn. Protect your skin and wear sunscreen.

In 1962, they came up with numbering the SPF and in 2014 the numbering system has capped.  This is to protect you, the consumer, from allowing a number to fool you into your skin being protected.  Just because the SPF number is high on the product does not necessarily mean that your skin is receiving that full benefit and that is why the FDA had to step in and make sure that your sunscreen will be effective about being protective.


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