Sunscreen update: FDA proposes new rating system; experts recommend products

June 1, 2008

National – Dermatologists have a mantra: wear sunscreen. But keeping up with new developments can be tough. As the northern hemisphere tilts toward the sun and scorched patients arrive with questions, it's time for a review of the latest and greatest in sun protection.

Key Points

National report - Dermatologists' summer mantra for patients is "Wear sunscreen." But keeping up with new developments can be challenging.

A significant milestone is the Food and Drug Administration's decision to update regulations for sunscreens sold over the counter.

The key addition is a four-star UVA rating system, using in vivo and in vitro testing methods.

The FDA's final ruling on the monograph is expected later this year. When that happens, manufacturers will have 18 months to comply with new regulations.

Vitamin D

Studies investigating vitamin D continue to suggest a wide range of health benefits.

"There is increasing evidence," Dr. Lim says, "that vitamin D is important for reasons beyond bone growth and fracture repair. "

Surprisingly, "A growing number of papers indicate even people living in sunny climates have lower-than-optimal vitamin D levels, while other research indicates that current recommendations on vitamin D uptake are probably too low," Dr. Lim tells Dermatology Times.

The National Institutes of Health, in an April 2008 update of its vitamin D fact sheet, suggests that 200 IU should be an adequate intake for people between the ages of 14 and 50, rising to 400 IU after age 50. Vitamin D advocates recommend much higher intakes, and some recommend sun exposure to raise blood 25 (OH)D (calcidiol) levels.

Products rated

Last summer, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a Washington, D.C., nonprofit organization, released a rating of sunscreen products, based on safety and efficacy.

The methodology involved a review of nearly 400 peer-reviewed studies of approved sunscreen chemicals and an analysis of ingredient toxicity.

Wide media dissemination of the study raised awareness about sunscreens in general.

Top-rated sunscreens from EWG's database: California Baby SPF 30+ Sunblock Stick (No Fragrance and Everyday/Year Round); Badger SPF 30; Keys Soap Solar RX Therapeutic Sunblock SPF 30; and Trukid Sunny Days Facestick SPF 30.