“We still remain in the situation where people feel a tan is beautiful,” says Dr. Mary Mercurio, a dermatologist at
Because a “golden tan” is still high sought after, many people dismiss the after effects of the sun's damaging UVA and UVB rays. UVA and UVB rays are those rays which penetrate to the earth’s surface from the sun. UVB rays cause immediate burns whereas UVA rays are responsible for long-term damage to the skin.
“Until now, there's been no real system to help consumers pick a truly protective sunscreen against both rays,” says Dr. Mercurio, “we know that UVA is as harmful as UVB and we have no way to grade the efficacy of sunscreens. Now, with this new grading system it will be easier because you can look at the SPF number and the four point scale. “
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is proposing a four-star scale, regulating all over-the-counter sunscreen products. The idea has been discussed by various health advocacy groups and the FDA for 28 years, however, the idea is finally making its way to reality.
“It brings more attention to the importance of sunscreen in preventing skin cancer,” says Dr. Mercurio, who adds she’s seen an increase in the number of melanoma skin cancer patients in her office each year. “I'm seeing more and more in young women.”
Under the FDA's proposal, one star would represent low protection, two star would equate to medium protection and a product with three stars would translate to high protection. A product with four stars would mean it contains the highest UVA protection available without a prescription. If a product cannot provide a one-star level of protection, the FDA would require the company to put a label on it reading “no UVA protection”.
There is a 90-day comment period on the FDA’s proposed regulations, ending on