The FDA, which first proposed changing sunscreen labels in 1978, said new rules will tell consumers which products offer "broad protection" from both major forms of ultraviolet radiation, or UV.
Although sunscreens now tout their sunburn protection factor, or SPF, this system measures only protection from burns.
New sunscreen labels will allow products to claim "broad spectrum" protection only if they pass specific FDA tests for blocking UVA rays, and if they have an SPF value of at least 15, says Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation. This is the first standard for UVA.
Products that don't protect against UVA, or which have an SPF of less than 15, will have to carry a warning, noting that they don't protect against skin cancer, Woodcock says. Sunscreens also will have to carry a "drug facts" box that provides detailed more detailed information about sun protection.