Help is on the way to consumers confused by the jumble of sun protection numbers and other claims on sunscreens.
Currently, standards of protection apply only to one part of the suns spectrum, ultraviolet B rays, which cause sunburn. Under new rules published Tuesday, they also will have to protect against the more penetrating ultraviolet A rays associated with skin cancer.
The guidelines, which spent more than 30 years in bureaucratic limbo, are designed to enhance the effectiveness of sunscreens and make them easier to use.
The key takeaway for consumers: Look for a sun protection factor, or SPF, of 15 and above that also says broad spectrum. Thats the new buzzword from the Food and Drug Administration to describe a product that does an acceptable job blocking both types of damaging rays.
Starting next summer, sunscreens with less than an SPF of 15 or that arent broad spectrum will have to carry a warning label: This product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging.