Sunscreen companies and their marketers can no longer call their products “waterproof.”
Under new regulations devised by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), about a year or so in the making, those in the sunblock industry will really need to choose their words wisely moving forward. Some of the new requirements, which are going into effect as we speak, will prevent companies from claiming their products are SPF 150 and will ask them to settle for “SPF 50+.”
If a brand claims to be water-resistant, they must accompany the statement with the amount of time you have per SPF-level before you have to reapply. For example, I picked up a can of Banana Boat Sport Coolzone sunscreen (or something like that. It’s amazing how many choices there are.) this weekend, and it said I could savor 80 minutes in the sun before I had to reapply.
Brands cannot use the words “sweatproof,” “sunblock,” or “instant protection.” According to CBS News, the sunscreen labeling situation was brought on as a result of the “confusion” about how much product is too much or too little when it comes to preventing a burn. The cause is justifiable. The American Academy of Dermatology estimates an incident rate of more than 3.5 million skin cancers in 2 million people-plus are diagnosed in the U.S. annually.
Several industry groups like the Personal Care Products Council and Consumer Healthcare Products Association have asked the FDA to delay the allotted time to comply, giving sunscreen makers until December 7, 2012 to meet FDA requirements, according to Emaxhealth.com. Of course, there are groups calling for a stricter timeframe, and those that are against the new regulations to begin with.
The whole sunscreen marketing scenario reminds me of the Activia yogurt suit. Parent company Dannon had to pay out $35 million after being hit with a class-action lawsuit claiming eaters of Activia yogurt had been duped into thinking the probiotics in the product would have a positive impact on their digestive track. As a result of the lawsuit and settlement, some words were rephrased in packaging and advertising.
The FDA is here to protect us, no doubt. It’d be a very different world if we had the kind of food-packaging safety portrayed in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. But at some point you do begin to ask yourself, “What’s common sense and what is grounds for consideration in deceptive marketing practices?” Chances are, I would have reapplied my “SPF 30 (Protection for up to 80 minutes)” as frequently as I would have if it had said, “Waterproof.”