Staying safe in the summer sun – National Consumers League

By Benjamin Judge, NCL Public Policy Intern

With school out and summer in full swing, weekends are filling up with BBQs, swimming pools, lawn games, and other fun outdoor activities. But all that time outside in the hot sun can have serious health consequences, and the beginning of summer is a great time to remind ourselves of the importance of sun protection. We all want to have fun in the sun, but we need to make sure to take in the summer rays as safely as possible. Luckily, the FDA recently made some regulation changes that will provide consumers with more information regarding the effectiveness of different sunscreens.

A few changes

The FDA recently announced new rules, which specify which lotions work the best while debunking the idea that sunscreens are truly “waterproof.” The FDA will ban sunscreen manufactures from saying their products are sweatproof or waterproof, and will instead allow them to list the amount of time (in minutes) that their lotion is water-resistant. The FDA will also require that sunscreens protect equally from both UVA and UVB radiation before earning “broad spectrum protection” label.

For the full list of FDA regulation changes, which will go into effect next year, visit their site here.

Dangers to prolonged exposure to the sun.

I’m sure everyone reading this has been sunburned at one time or another. However, there are many other serious sun health risks beyond the ubiquitous sunburn. Most people have heard of the dangers caused by UV-rays, but it’s important to distinguish between UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays are the radiation that causes sunburns and does not penetrate the upper layer of skin (epidermis).  However UVA rays are much more dangerous because they can penetrate the upper layer and be absorbed in the middle layer of the skin (dermis), causing skin damage and the possibility of skin cancer. According to the Melanoma Education Foundation one blistering sunburn before the age of 20 doubles your lifetime risk of melanoma.  The foundation also says “skin damage from UV exposure is cumulative throughout your lifetime and cannot be reversed.” So it’s important to choose the sun protection that will most likely mitigate these unwanted problems.

How to stay safe

Staying safe is simple if you follow a few basic tips:

  • Apply sunscreen before exposing yourself to the sun.
  • Wear protective clothing like a hat and sunglasses.
  • When spending long amount of time in the sun, don’t forget to reapply sunscreen every two hours, even more often when sweating or swimming.
  • Use sunscreen that has at least SPF 15 in order to protect against sunburns, skin damage, and skin cancer.

Now get out there and enjoy the great summer weather!