FDA delays sunscreen labeling rules; task force urges more education

July 1, 2012

Two important Washington developments regarding sunscreen have taken place this summer, but neither will do much to help adults who need guidance in protecting themselves during this year's sunbathing season. Early in May, the Food and Drug Administration announced it is delaying until December implementation of new sunscreen rules that had been scheduled to take effect in June.

Key Points

Two important Washington developments regarding sunscreen have taken place this summer, but neither will do much to help adults who need guidance in protecting themselves during this year's sunbathing season.

Later in the month, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued recommendations that children and young adults up to 24 years of age should be counseled about the need to minimize their exposure to ultraviolet radiation to reduce risk of skin cancer. But the USPSTF concluded that the current evidence is insufficient to justify recommending that adults older than 24 receive such counseling.

Rules recap

The sunscreen rules, announced last June, are designed to give consumers better information about the effectiveness of over-the-counter sunscreen products. For the first time, they will allow labels to contain claims that sunscreens protect against skin cancer and early skin aging.

The new rules are the result of more than 30 years of deliberation, as the agency has been considering new regulations since 1978. It released some proposals in 2007 but subsequently concluded that the labeling system then being considered would cause too much consumer confusion. So they were never finalized.

Now, the new rules will take effect Dec. 17 for large companies, with a one-year grace period for smaller manufacturers. The regulations will ban claims such as "sweat-proof" and "waterproof" and prohibit unsubstantiated claims of instant or all-day protection.