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Sunscreen Regulations

(credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

(credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

feldman_amy Amy Feldman
Amy E. Feldman is a business commentator and legal business...
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By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Remember when summer meant slathering yourself in baby oil and going for the deepest darkest tan you could get? Now we know better. Or do we really know what our sunscreen actually protects?

Most people pick out their sunscreen based on the color of the plastic bottle; the darker the bottle the darker their tan. But there are, in fact, a lot of regulations that govern what a company can and can’t say and what it does and doesn’t mean – and it’s got nothing to do with the color of the bottle.

Sunburn is caused primarily by UVB rays, but both UVB and UVA can cause premature skin aging, skin cancer and sun burning. Only sunscreen that says Broad Spectrum protects against both types of rays.

Look for a sun protection formula between 15 and 50. Less than 15 isn’t fully protective, and more than 50 hasn’t been shown to be more protective. And FDA prohibits words like sweatproof or waterproof on a label because there’s no such thing. Labels can only say how long a user can expect to get the SPF level of protection while swimming or sweating, either 40 or 80 minutes. So remember to reapply at least every 2 hours.

And for even better results, get someone to serve you an umbrella drink while fanning you. It’s not actually a regulation but your significant other doesn’t need to know that.