After a 33-year-long delay and mounting frustrations from the natural sunscreen industry and the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has finally introduced its sunscreen requirements, which address "broad spectrum," "waterproof," and other unsubstantiated marketing claims. A step in the right direction—but the EWG and natural mineral-based sunscreen manufacturers are pointing out significant regulation loopholes that will affect consumers. 

FDA sunscreen requirements highlights

Under the new requirements—which the FDA will enforce by June 2012 (consumers and retailers will likely see changes on sunscreen packaging prior to then)—any company wanting to make "broad spectrum” claims must now test for UVA protection, in addition to UVB. "The FDA was supposedly legislating about UVA three years ago; it's about time," says Amy Wechsler, MD, a New York-based dermatologist. "Europe and Australia have been doing it for years."

The new "broad spectrum" labeling requirement will force some manufacturers to change formulations if they want to claim to be broad spectrum, which is an issue consumers are educated about, says Paul Halter, lead formulator for Colorado-based mineral sun care company Goddess Garden. "There's a greater and greater appreciation for using those full-spectrum mineral active titanium dioxide and zinc oxide sunscreens, rather than chemicals sunscreens, which have various issues." The regulations will mean more work for anyone in the industry, says Halter (even including mineral sunscreen companies ranked highest on the EWG's safe sunscreen list, which will also have to adjust labeling) and are "very positive."

Manufacturers are also prohibited from making misleading claims like "waterproof" or "sweatproof," or identifying their products as "sunblocks." While the regulations don't relate directly to a formulation's efficacy and safety, they will help "provide clarity and truth in marketing," says Jentri Provenzano, marketing coordinator at W.S. Badger, a leading manufacturer of mineral sunscreens. Other approved regulations include requiring non broad-spectrum sunscreens below SPF 15 to contain a warning statement about skin cancer and skin aging. (Get a complete list of the FDA requirements.)