Sunblock: Still Can’t Protect You from the FDA

The FDA is rolling out new labeling rules for sunscreen. First, sunscreens that don’t offer “enough” UVA protection (which has been shown to prevent wrinkles and skin cancer) will be required to carry a warning label stating that “the product hasn’t been shown to help prevent skin cancer or early skin aging.” Although many sunscreens offer strong UVB protection (which prevents sunburn), the FDA is concerned that a sunscreen can have plenty of UVB protection while offering little UVA protection and still call itself “broad spectrum,” thereby fooling consumers into buying a product that doesn’t offer complete protection.

Second, The FDA-mandated SPF cutoff for labeling whether the product has or hasn’t been shown to help prevent skin cancer and wrinkles is SPF 15. Further, the FDA will prohibit sunscreens from listing SPF values above 50 because “there aren’t enough data to show products with a value higher than 50 offers more protection.” A “star-rating” proposal had even been floated. In addition to increasing business’ production costs during a recession by forcing producers to change all of their labels, this new “big brother” scheme threatens to hurt sales as some products will be required to show a warning label mentioning their so-called “poor” protection (as it will obviously be interpreted)  from UVA or UVB rays.

Unfortunately, this good/bad assessment comes from the bureaucrats of the FDA and not actual consumers, who are the ones that make this subjective assessment every time they make a purchase. This new labeling rule is akin to a customer review, which then begs the question as to why the FDA has the right to express its opinion on every bottle of sunscreen while the average consumer does not?  Is it because those at the FDA are ostensibly smarter and more in-tune about what is in our best interest than we lowly plebeians are? I’m sure they certainly think so.

Finally, the FDA ignores that many consumers are already adequately informed and realize (when they buy an SPF 4 sunscreen, for example) that their desired sunblock may not strongly protect them from UVA or UVB rays — who actually believes an SPF 4 provides real protection? Much like who honestly believes that smoking isn’t hazardous to health and relies on the FDA-mandated labels to make him/her aware of this misconception? Consumers already weed out the good products from the bad through company reputation, trial and error, word of mouth, etc. This new regulation only serves to discourage and worry those who already buy sunscreen that they value and increase its cost of production. The notion that we’d all be ignorant consumers incapable of acting in our own best interest without the benevolent patriarchy of the FDA is absurd.