A Smart Guide to Sun Protection

By Daniel M. Siegel, MD, FAAD President, American Academy of Dermatology (AAD)

A Smart Guide to Sun Protection

As you may have heard or read, the Food & Drug Administration has decided to extend the compliance date for the sunscreen labeling and testing requirements from this summer to the end of 2012 for major sunscreen brands. 

The requirements will ensure that sunscreen products are clearly labeled as to their broad-spectrum protection and sun protection factor (or SPF), and whether they protect against only sunburn, or protect against both sunburn and skin cancer. The requirements also will ban misleading terms such as “waterproof” to describe these products. Extending the compliance date allows manufacturers the necessary time to test their products for broad-spectrum protection and properly label them.

Until sunscreens meet the FDA’s new labeling and testing requirements, the Academy recommends that you use these simple tips to help protect yourself during the upcoming summer season – and beyond. 

Always use a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen rated SPF 30 or more.  “Broad-spectrum” provides protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB rays). To clear up a misconception: Something rated SPF 30 is NOT “twice as strong” as something with an SPF 15. 

Use a shot glass worth of sunscreen to start and when re-applying. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, and a shot glass is about the right amount of sunscreen to put on before you head outside – even on a cloudy day. Re-apply that much sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming or sweating. 


Be fashion-forward and sun-safe. Enhance your outdoor wardrobe with everything from wide-brimmed hats to UV-resistant clothing. When used with sunscreen, these clothing items provide effective and, yes, fashionable protection from the sun’s harmful rays.

Pack a sun-protection “Go Bag” before heading out. Once you hit the beach, park or playground, you will be out of luck if you forget your sunscreen. As always, it’s best to follow the tips above, but packing a “Go Bag” prior to a day at the beach, on the baseball diamond or picnicking in the park is always a good idea. Pack at least one family-sized bottle of sunscreen, hats and sunglasses for your group just to be sure you’re sun safe once outside. 

And remember that while more than 3.5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year, there’s plenty you can do to help prevent it, detect it – and live.

We urge you to take the American Academy of Dermatology’s Facebook pledge to SPOT Skin Cancer™ or visit the AAD’s website for more helpful advice and free resources – and encourage your friends and family to do the same!

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