On June 14, 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced new requirements for sunscreens currently sold over-the-counter (OTC). These requirements support the Agency's ongoing efforts to ensure that sunscreens meet modern-day standards for safety and effectiveness.
Sunscreen products that meet modern standards for effectiveness may be labeled with new information to help consumers find products that, when used with other sun protection measures, reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging, as well as help prevent sunburn.
These new requirements are part of an ongoing effort to ensure sunscreens meet modern-day standards for safety and efficacy and are based on the latest science available. They will also reduce confusion about sunscreen.
The new requirements, as well as several proposed changes for future rules, are outlined in four regulatory documents that include a Final Rule, a Proposed Rule, an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and a Draft Guidance for Industry.
The FDA has announced significant changes to sunscreen products that will help consumers decide how to buy and use sunscreen, and allow them to more effectively protect themselves and their families from sun-induced damage.
The following questions and answers provide a brief overview of the recent regulatory actions and highlight the most important information for consumers to know when buying and using sunscreen products.
Q1. Why is FDA making changes to how sunscreens are marketed in the United States?
A. FDA is making changes to how sunscreens are marketed in the United States as part of the Agency's ongoing efforts to ensure that sunscreens meet modern-day standards for safety and effectiveness and help consumers have the information they need so they can choose the right sun protection for themselves and their families.
Prior rules on sunscreens dealt almost exclusively with protection against only ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation from the sun, and did not address skin cancer and early skin aging caused by ultraviolet A (UVA) rays. After reviewing the latest science, FDA determined that sufficient data are available to establish a standard broad spectrum test procedure that measures UVA radiation protection in relation to the amount of UVB radiation protection. This designation will give consumers better information on which sunscreen products offer the greatest protection from both UVA and UVB exposure that can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer.
Sunscreen products that pass the broad spectrum test are allowed to be labeled as "Broad Spectrum." These "Broad Spectrum" sunscreens protect against both UVA and UVB rays. For "Broad Spectrum" sunscreens, the "Sun Protection Factor" or SPF also indicates the overall amount of protection provided. Broad Spectrum sunscreens with SPF values of 15 or higher help protect against not only sunburn, but also skin cancer and early skin aging when used as directed with other sun protection measures. These sun protection measures include limiting time in the sun and wearing protective clothing.
For sunscreen products labeled with SPF values but not as "Broad Spectrum," the SPF value indicates the amount of protection against sunburn only.
These testing and labeling requirements are necessary to provide consumers with the information they need to make informed choices when selecting sunscreens.
Q2. When will these changes take effect?
A. The Final Rule will take effect by the summer of 2012, but consumers may begin to see changes to sunscreen labels before the effective date.
Q3. What do consumers need to know when buying and using sunscreens?
A. Spending time in the sun increases a person's risk of skin cancer and early skin aging. To reduce these risks, consumers should regularly use a Broad Spectrum sunscreen with an SPF value of 15 or higher in combination with other protective measures such as:
• Limiting time in the sun, especially between the hours of 10 AM and 2 PM when the sun's rays are the strongest.
• Wearing clothing to cover skin exposed to the sun (long-sleeved shirts, pants, sunglasses, and broad-brimmed hats).
• Using a water resistant sunscreen if swimming or sweating.
• Reapplying sunscreen, even if it is labeled as water resistant, at least every 2 hours. (Water-resistant sunscreens should be reapplied more often after swimming or sweating, according to the directions on the label.)
Q4. What are the main points of the new Final Rule?
A. The new final rule includes the following requirements:
• Broad Spectrum designation. Sunscreens that pass FDA's broad spectrum test procedure, which measures a product's UVA protection relative to its UVB protection, may be labeled as "Broad Spectrum SPF [value]" on the front label. For Broad Spectrum sunscreens, SPF values also indicate the amount or magnitude of overall protection. Broad Spectrum SPF products with SPF values higher than 15 provide greater protection and may claim additional uses, as described in the next bullet.
• Use claims. Only Broad Spectrum sunscreens with an SPF value of 15 or higher can claim to reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging if used as directed with other sun protection measures. Non-Broad Spectrum sunscreens and Broad Spectrum sunscreens with an SPF value between 2 and 14 can only claim to help prevent sunburn.
• "Waterproof, "sweatproof" or "sunblock" claims. Manufacturers cannot label sunscreens as "waterproof" or "sweatproof," or identify their products as "sunblocks," because these claims overstate their effectiveness. Sunscreens also cannot claim to provide sun protection for more than 2 hours without reapplication or to provide protection immediately after application (for example, "instant protection") without submitting data to support these claims and obtaining FDA approval.
• Water resistance claims. Water resistance claims on the front label must indicate whether the sunscreen remains effective for 40 minutes or 80 minutes while swimming or sweating, based on standard testing. Sunscreens that are not water resistant must include a direction instructing consumers to use a water resistant sunscreen if swimming or sweating.
• Drug Facts. All sunscreens must include standard "Drug Facts" information on the back and/or side of the container.
Q5. What does the Proposed Rule address?
A. The proposed rule, if finalized, would limit the maximum SPF value on sunscreen labels to "50 +" because there is not sufficient data to show that products with SPF values higher than 50 provide greater protection for users than products with SPF values of 50.
The proposed regulation is available for public comment.
Q6. What is the purpose of the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR)?
A. The Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) allows the public a period of time to comment on regulations FDA may pursue as part of future rulemaking. In developing regulations for over-the-counter (OTC) sunscreens, FDA has not previously specified to which dosage forms the regulations would apply. Therefore, FDA is requesting additional data relating to sunscreen products in specific dosage forms to further our understanding of how dosage forms affect safety and effectiveness.
For example, the ANPR invites public comment on possible directions for use of and warnings for sunscreen sprays, as well as supporting data or information for sprays and other sunscreen dosage forms including lotions, oils, sticks, gels, butters, ointments, creams, and pastes. The ANPR also explains how interested parties can supply information for FDA to consider other dosage forms, including powders, towelettes, body washes, and shampoos.
Q7. Why is the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) requesting additional data on sunscreen products in the form of sprays?
A. Currently, the record (data and information) about sunscreens in spray dosage forms is not comparable to that for sunscreens in other dosage forms such as oils, creams, and lotions. The manner of application differs significantly between sprays and these other dosage forms. Therefore, we are requesting additional data to address questions of effectiveness and safety that arise from differences in the manner of application.
Q8. What is included in the Draft Guidance for Industry?
A. The Draft Guidance for Industry is an enforcement guidance that includes information to help sunscreen product manufacturers understand how to label and test their products in light of the new Final Rule, the Proposed Rule, and the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR).
Q9. Why isn't FDA finalizing all the proposed sunscreen changes under one rule?
A. FDA is finalizing those changes that are based on proposals it made in earlier stages of rulemaking, including a 2007 proposed rule, on which it already received public comment. Those comments also helped to inform the Agency's thinking about additional aspects of sunscreen regulation, which in turn gave rise to the Proposed Rule and Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR). The regulatory process requires FDA to give public notice and opportunity for comment before finalizing additional changes, which also gives the public and Agency an opportunity to further develop the record (data and information) on safety and effectiveness.
Q10. Where can I find more information on these various regulatory actions?
A. On June 14, 2011, FDA published the new sunscreen Final Rule, the Proposed Rule, the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) and the notice of availability of the Draft Guidance for Industry in the Federal Register. The draft guidance, Enforcement Policy—OTC Sunscreen Drug Products Marketed Without an Approved Application, is also available.