No More Charred Children

I’m no medical expert, but when I see sunscreen containers plastered with labels that read, SPF 80, 90 or 100, my eyeballs get a workout, rolling to the depths of their sockets.

I grew up in Hawaii in an age when sunscreen was packaged as beach umbrellas and large palm fronds. Consequently, I have learned the hard (and expensive) way that there is a time and place for sunscreen, even when you live near the Frozen Tundra. Basically, I got scorched as a kid enough times to warrant biopsies and several crash courses in sun protection from trained medical professionals.

It’s irony at its best… or worst–getting schooled about protection after the fact.

Better late than dead, I guess.

Even better, though, is getting the knowledge about sun protection in advance, which is why I was thrilled by the announcement made today by the Food and Drug Administration.

Having experienced the downside of unprotected baking on the beach for many, many years, I am now completely obsessed with keeping my young daughter from getting burned.

With summer sizzling its way across the nation, the FDA’s new guidelines for sunscreen labeling couldn’t have come at a better time, especially for parents who may be confused about the ABCs of sun protection.

Highlights of today’s announcement include:

SPF value: Say so long to sunscreens with 80, 90 and 100 SPF values. The FDA will no longer allow sunscreen manufacturers to feature a SPF value higher than 50. According to the new report, the highest category of SPF you’ll see on sunscreen containers beginning next year will be 50+ because there is not enough evidence to show that a number higher than 50 offers better protection.

Sunblock be gone: According to the FDA, the word “sunblock” will no longer be featured on sun protection products because there is no evidence that they block all of the sun’s harmful rays.

Proof positive: The FDA’s other mandates eliminate the words “waterproof” and “sweat proof” from sun protection product labels. The words will be replaced with “water resistant,” and all labels must clearly state how long the protection lasts — either 40 minutes or 80 minutes.

Finally, parents looking to keep their kids burn-free this summer should make sure their children are wearing enough sunscreen. Experts recommend kids older than 6 months old apply a golf ball-sized glob of sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to their body, including the tips of their ears and tops of their feet.

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.