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SB's Guide to the Exciting World of Sunscreen Regulation

Posted by Erendira Garcia on

There’s big stuff happening in the world of sunscreen! Bet you didn’t expect to read that sentence ever. The FDA recently released a proposal for increased regulations of sunscreens and products containing SPF. Even though it hasn’t passed yet, the proposal actually gives us a rare behind-the-scenes look at the sunscreen industry. Here’s the tl;dr so you can make an informed decision about finding sunscreen for you and your family.

#1 Only 2 active ingredients have the FDA’s official stamp of approval
The FDA has only given 2 out of the 16 current active ingredients their “GRASE” (generally recognized as safe and effective) approval: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. When applying sunscreen, these active ingredients are your best bet.

Different types of sunscreen#2 Not all formulas are made equal
The FDA’s latest proposed regulation for SPF will not consider certain formulations as GRASE without further research & data from the industry. Powders, wipes, washes, & other forms of SPF don’t have enough data to back up their effectiveness so you’re better off sticking to formulations including lotions, creams, & sprays.

#3 Current SPF testing doesn’t pass the FDA’s tests
The new regulation is also proposing to clarify how product testing and record keeping for sunscreens should be done so that the FDA can ensure compliance and improve regulation. So that means that most testing being done now is not necessarily kosher. Be wary of claims from sunscreen & SPF products.

#4 SPF & bug sprays are a bad combination
The new regulation will not qualify any SPF products that contain bug-repellent ingredients as “GRASE.” The only way to get both sun protection and bug repellency is by using bug-repellent clothing which also covers up your skin. If you really need bug spray and sunscreen, make sure you use them as separate products and wait for one to dry fully before applying the other.

#5 “Reef-safe” is not always safe for reefs
In fact, the term “reef-safe” is not regulated in any way which means companies can legally make all kinds of claims about their SPF being reef-safe. And even if an SPF is free of oxybenzone and octinoxate (the worst SPF ingredient offenders for oceans), oils and other ingredients in it sunscreen could be polluting and damaging marine ecosystems.

Visit the FDA website to see the full proposal about sunscreen regulations.

Okay so maybe the sunscreen industry is 1) a bit more complicated than any of us thought and 2) not always entirely all the way truthful, what does one do? Why, you turn to the sunscreen sleuths at your local sports basement, of course!

For the environmentally conscious
The best way to give your skin sun protection while protecting the ocean is by depending on sunscreen as a last resort when you’re in the water. Before you jump into the ocean, wear hats & clothing that adequately cover your skin. When you’re ready to dive in, we’ve got swim apparel that’ll provide UVA/UVB protection while you’re in the water. If you’re gonna be in the water for a while and you don’t have the option of going without, opt for sunscreens with non-nano particle zinc oxide as the SPF ingredient, like ThinkSports’ SPF 50+ Lotion or Elemental Herb’s SPF 30 Sunscreen Spray as this ingredient is not absorbed by corals & other marine life.

For the tiny tots
If you’ve got babies (or toddlers who still allow you to dress them entirely), clothing and hats are going to be their #1 line of defense, mostly because it’s the #1 line of defense for anyone. While hanging out at the beach or park, they’ll be able to crawl around under these tents & shades, no problem. Be sure to apply a gentle, physical barrier (that means chemical-free, using zinc oxide or titanium oxide only) sunscreen to any exposed skin. We like Thinksports’ Thinkbaby Safe SPF 50+ lotion. Be sure to use a cream or lotion sunscreen for your littles – spray-on sunscreens are not as effective at protecting delicate skin like theirs’.

For bug & sun protection
While the FDA does not recommend a 2-in-1 product, we’ve found that the ExOfficio BugsAway apparel line, does a pretty darn good job at both! Many pieces are even UPF 50+!


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