How to read the new sunscreen labels

Sunscreen labels have changed
Thanks to label changes, you can now tell whether a sunscreen can help prevent skin cancer, premature skin aging, and sunburn — or just sunburn.

Make sure you see the words "broad spectrum"
To select a sunscreen that can protect against skin cancer, premature skin aging, and sunburn, you’ll need to look for two things. The first thing you want to look for is the words "broad spectrum.” This means that the sunscreen can protect your skin from both types of harmful UV rays — the UVA rays and the UVB rays.

Choose sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher
The second thing you want to look for is the SPF. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you select a sunscreen with an SPF rating of 30 or higher.

Look for the words "water resistant"
Dermatologists also recommend that you look for the words "water resistant.” This tells you that the sunscreen will stay on your skin for a while even if your skin gets wet. Not all sunscreens offer water resistance.

You need to reapply water-resistant sunscreen
If the sunscreen offers water resistance, you will see "40 minutes" or "80 minutes" after the words "water resistant." This tells you how long your skin can be wet or sweaty before you need to reapply.

Isn’t waterproof sunscreen better?

You may be wondering why dermatologists recommend water-resistant sunscreen. Wouldn’t a sunscreen that is waterproof or sweat proof be a better option? The truth is sunscreen cannot be waterproof or sweat proof. You’ll no longer see these words on sunscreen labels.

Why you won’t find sunblock
"Sunblock" is another word that you will no longer see. This word misleads people. Manufacturers must use the word "sunscreen."

Select sunscreen that does not contain insect repellant
You will still find sunscreen that contains insect repellant. Dermatologists, however, recommend that you buy these two products separately. You need to reapply sunscreen liberally at least every two hours. In most situations, you need to reapply insect repellant much less frequently and much more sparingly.

Select a product to protect your lips
Skin cancer can develop on the lips — and be quite aggressive. To protect your lips, select a lip balm that is labeled "Broad Spectrum SPF 30." Be sure to use it year round.

Select a sunscreen you really like
Sunscreen can only protect your skin when you use it. When shopping for sunscreen, try samples if available. Smell the product. Selecting sunscreen that you really like helps to ensure that you’ll use it. Thanks to the label changes, you’ll know exactly what protection it offers.

When selecting sunscreen, make sure the label says:

  • Broad spectrum 
  • SPF 30
  • Water resistant

The slideshow above explains why you want to look for these words. It also tells you what words you will no longer find on sunscreen labels.

Taking a few minutes to view this slideshow will help you find sunscreen that can decrease your risk of getting skin cancer and premature skin aging.