The Truth About Sunscreen

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You may have noticed the deceptive advertising on sunscreen: Companies call their products “waterproof,” or promise “all-day protection” (both technically impossible), and boast ridiculously high SPFs, some claiming to block 100 percent of the sun. SPF, in fact, refers to duration of protection. Last December, the FDA began enforcing new labeling rules to ensure that the claims of sunscreen manufacturers are legit. Here’s what to look for on those labels – how to cut through bureaucratic jargon and buy the most effective sunscreen.

• Buy sunscreen that is water- or sweat-resistant. If a product has been shown to stay on in the water, the label will now specify that it’s water-resistant to either 40 minutes or 80 minutes.

• Always choose broad-spectrum sunscreen. If a sunscreen is proven to protect against both UVA and UVB rays, it will now say so. If you apply it correctly, you’ll be safeguarded against sunburn, wrinkles, and skin cancer.

• Stay away from these two chemicals: Oxybenzone and avobenzone. A Drug Facts panel will now display active ingredients like these, making them easier to avoid.

More new rules for sunscreen here, as well as our picks for best chemical-free sunscreens and other top sunscreens.