What you need to know about Sunscreen Labels!

Applying Sunscreen (Image Credit: Maridav)

Applying Sunscreen (Image Credit: Maridav)

Sun-kissed or sun-slapped? Applying sunscreen can keep you from getting scorched by the sun’s damaging rays; but are you picking out the sunscreen that will provide the best protection?

Often, consumers become overwhelmed when choosing sunscreens, either trying to decipher the label of gibberish on the bottle or simply plucking the bottle with the highest SPF off the shelves. Below is a list that can help you translate what sunscreen labels are saying and pick out the bottle that is right for you.

Sunscreen, never Sunblock!

In 2012, the FDA updated their regulations to prohibit the use of the term “sunblock” on products to appear in stores. The word “sunblock” can cause consumers to think that they are more protected than they actually are (The same goes for terms that end in –proof, such as “waterproof” and “sweat-proof”). If you are in possession of a bottle of “sunblock,” trash it, and look for the more honest sunscreen!


Sunscreen bottles labeled “broad-spectrum” protect against Ultraviolet A (UVA) and Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, exposure to these rays can cause sunburn, pre-mature skin aging and even skin cancer. Consumers should keep their eyes peeled for the “broad-spectrum” label when making their skin-protecting purchases.


As stated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is the measurement of skin protection the sunscreen will provide by its absorption and/or reflection of UVA and/or UVB rays. Be forewarned that the SPF scale does not increase consistently; rather it follows an increasing, then stabilizing trend.

In its Information For Consumers article, the FDA recommends an SPF minimum of 15.

Water Resistant

Just as the term “sunblock” was banned by the FDA, “waterproof” is also not to appear on future sunscreen bottles. Water-resistant means that the sunscreen’s protection is not fixed from when it is initially applied to when it is washed off. Protection will diminish as you jump in and out of the ocean, splash in your pool, and/or sweat naturally.

The summer sun, while inviting you to put on your bikinis and/or board shorts, has the ability to do severe skin damage. The number of skin cancer cases is on the rise; and it is important to purchase sunscreen that provides the best protection.


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