Study Reveals Public Still Struggles to Understand Sunscreen Labels

A survey study at the Minnesota State Fair has confirmed what the American Academy of Dermatology and U.S. Food and Drug Administration have been saying for years.

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A study published by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) indicates that, when it comes to sunscreen labels, terms such as “broad-spectrum” and “SPF” are misunderstood by many in public.

Researchers surveyed 496 people at the Minnesota State Fair to identify potential misconceptions about sunscreen labeling.  Researchers found that 12% correctly answered that SPF value specifies protection for ultraviolet (UV) B rays, and only 30% correctly identified that “broad-spectrum” means sunscreen protects you from both UVA and UVB rays. Researchers also found that less than 10% knew that sunscreens labeled “baby safe” and “natural/organic” have no standard of criteria for those labeling claims. Almost 50% assumed that “dermatologist recommended” or “clinically proven” meant that the sunscreen was endorsed by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), which is not true, and more than 50% incorrectly thought that FDA testing was required to prove that sunscreens are “hypoallergenic.”

However, there is some good news: the findings also revealed that prior sunscreen counseling or a single dermatologist visit were two of the factors linked to improved sunscreen knowledge. When choosing or recommending a sunscreen product, the AAD recommends that everyone look for the following terms on the product label:

·        Broad spectrum — Sunscreen protects against UVA rays (which cause premature skin aging) and UVB rays (which cause sunburn).

·         SPF 30 or higher  — SPF 30 sunscreens block 97% of the sun’s UVB rays.

·         Water resistant — While no sunscreen is completely waterproof, water-resistant sunscreens can provide protection for wet or sweaty skin for 40 or 80 minutes. All sunscreens should be reapplied every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.

The researchers say these study results back the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s proposed rule that would further clarify labeling requirements for most sunscreen products.

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