- Sun protection in the US is regulated by the FDA, but US sunscreen may not protect us as much as those found in other countries.
- Of the 20 best sunscreen creams, nine have not met European standards.
- In the top video, dermatologist Dr. Seemal Desai explains what to look for in sunscreen that protects against skin cancer, causing UVA rays.
The following is the transcript of the video.
Narrator: In 2017, researchers tested the 20 best-selling American sunscreens. The good news is that 19 of them meet FDA standards. Bad news? Nine did not meet European standards. It seems that different countries have a different rule for what makes sure sunscreen creams and American sunscreens might not protect Americans as much as it could. When we lie in the sun, our skin absorbs two types of UV light. UVA and UVB rays. UVB light is more energy and can cause burns while UVA penetrates deeper under the skin and can damage skin cells along the lower layer of the epidermis.
Desai: We know that UVB rays the rays that cause sunburn. But UVA rays are rays that can cause skin cancer so you really want to cover the spectrum on both. I think a lot of people are mistaken that I did not burn from the sun so I'm not inclined to get skin cancer which is actually not true.
Narrator: The biggest sunbathing care of the US is how much you get from UVA radiation caused by cancer. For decades FDA regulations require UVB protection, but not necessarily against UVA. Meanwhile, melanoma rates, a dangerous form of skin cancer, continued to climb in the US. Then, in 2012, the FDA updated its marking and testing regulations so manufacturers now have to notify UVB and UVA protection buyers. For example, a wide spectrum tag on your sunburn means. And while this is a good first step, there are still no rules on how much protection you get from UVA. So there are no ways to say that.
Desai: Here in the United States I think we need to be aware of the fact that when sunlight says this is a wide spectrum, it protects UVA and UVB, it means you will get protection from those air. However, what does not mean it will block all rays.
Narrator: And this is the place where American sun creams are falling.
Desai: And I will say that I think that we are behind other countries globally, and especially from our European colleagues, in approving new ingredients for sun protection. All in all, there was not much change in the American sunscreen composition and what our sunscreens have been in the last few years.
Narrator: The FDA has approved 16 active ingredients that protect against UV radiation. But only some are protected from UVB and UVA air. For comparison, Europe requires more than 20 active ingredients to protect from both.
Desai: At present, the American Academy of Dermatology and other organizations are truly advocating for the FDA to accelerate the process of approving new ingredients for sun protection. Because with these ingredients we can probably get even better coverage and better protection, and maybe get something easier to apply, it's easier on the skin, and that does not have any adverse side effects for the patients.
Narrator: You can buy sunblocks from other countries online. But if you're planning to stick to American sunscreens, look for a wide spectrum tag and do not buy anything under SPF 30.
Desai: The bigger the SPF, the better. But definitely we do not want someone going under 30. Consider whether you have someone with history of melanoma, if you use SPF 30, block out, say 98% of the harmful air. However, what about the remaining 2%? This 2% may be something that might be the potential to put you at risk down the road.
Join the conversation about this story »