FDA Announces Changes to Better Inform Consumers About Sunscreen

New Rules Give Consumers More Information to Help Reduce the Risk of Skin Cancer, Early Aging

FDA Announces Changes to Better Inform Consumers About Sunscreen

For Immediate Release: June 14, 2011
Media Inquiries: Shelly Burgess, 301-796-4651, shelly.burgess@fda.hhs.gov
Consumer Inquiries: 888-INFO-FDA

FDA Announces Changes to Better Inform Consumers About Sunscreen
New Rules Give Consumers More Information to Help Reduce the Risk of Skin Cancer, Early Aging

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced today that sunscreen products meeting 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.

The final regulation allows sunscreen products that pass the FDA’s test for protection against both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays to be labeled as “Broad Spectrum.” Both UVB and UVA radiation contribute to sunburn, skin cancer, and premature skin aging. Sunburn is primarily caused by UVB radiation.

Under the new labeling, sunscreens labeled as both Broad Spectrum and SPF 15 (or higher), if used regularly, as directed, and in combination with other sun protection measures will help prevent sunburn, reduce the risk of skin cancer, and reduce the risk of early skin aging.

“FDA has evaluated the data and developed testing and labeling requirements for sunscreen products, so that manufacturers can modernize their product information and consumers can be well-informed on which products offer the greatest benefit,” said Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “These changes to sunscreen labels are an important part of helping consumers have the information they need so they can choose the right sun protection for themselves and their families.”

Products that have SPF values between 2 and 14 may be labeled as Broad Spectrum if they pass the required test, but only products that are labeled both as Broad Spectrum with SPF values of 15 or higher may state that they reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging, when used as directed.

Any product that is not Broad Spectrum, or that is Broad Spectrum but has an SPF between 2 to 14, will be required to have a warning stating that the product has not been shown to help prevent skin cancer or early skin aging.

“Most skin cancers are caused by sun exposure. FDA encourages consumers to protect themselves,” Woodcock added.  “Not only should consumers regularly apply and reapply sunscreens with Broad Spectrum and SPF of 15 or higher, they should also limit sun exposure.”

In addition to the final rule for sunscreen labeling, today the FDA released three additional regulatory documents -- a Proposed Rule, an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) for Dosage Forms, and a Draft Enforcement Guidance for Industry.

  • The proposed rule 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 proposal creates the opportunity for the submission of data to support including higher SPF values in the final rule. FDA looks forward to receiving public comment on this document.
  • The ANPR will allow the public a period of time to submit requested data addressing the effectiveness and the safety of sunscreen sprays and to comment on possible directions and warnings for sprays that the FDA may pursue in the future, among other issues regarding dosage forms for sunscreens.
  • The Draft Enforcement Guidance for Industry outlines information to help sunscreen product manufacturers understand how to label and test their products in light of the new final rule and other regulatory initiatives.

To ensure that sunscreen products meet modern safety standards, FDA is also currently reexamining the safety information available for active ingredients included in sunscreens marketed today. The ingredients in sunscreens marketed today have been used for many years and FDA does not have any reason to believe these products are not safe for consumer use. 

The new regulations will become effective for most manufacturers in one year.  Manufacturers with annual sales less than $25,000 have two years to comply. 
For more information:


Sunburn Protection Factor (SPF) 

Sun Protection

Consumer Update


This video outlines the new steps FDA is taking to protect consumers from sun damage to the skin.

Not all sunscreens are created equal. Listen to the reasons why some work—and others don't.

Sound bites for media use

Video footage of short quotes on sunscreen use and labeling changes from FDA dermatologist Jill Lindstrom is available for media use. For information, contact Shelly.Burgess@fda.hhs.gov. For FTP download, follow these steps:

1. Instructions using an FTP Client (Recommended Method). If you need a good FTP Client we suggest Filezilla. It works for both Apple and PC.

All user names and passwords are case sensitive.
Server Address: ftp.yorkmedia.com
User Name: fdavideo
Password: Public*Health
Path is: /fdaupload

2. Instructions using a web browser:

Server address: ftp://fdavideo@ftp.yorkmedia.com
User Name: fdavideo
Password: Public*Health
Path is: /fdaupload

For the file you want to download, Right Click and chose "Save Target As" or "Save Link As". Save it to a location you will remember. Do not attempt to play it from the server.


The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.



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