New rules for sunscreen labeling will provide seperate qualifiers for the ability to block UVB and UVA rays.
UVB is the portion of the ultraviolet spectrum that causes the skin to burn, or tan if you’re not a light-skinned Irish decendant like me.
UVA is the portion of the spectrum that may pose a cancer risk.
While some products may block UVB, they may have no effect on UVA. That’s probably not a good thing because some reports indicate that the average person thinks that all sunblocks prevent burning and reduce the risk of cancer already.
So, the SPF rating will stay. That’s the UVB blocking factor. A high number generally means you can stay out in the sun that many times longer than you could without sunblock.
So…an SPF factor of 30 gives my fair skin a good five minutes.
For the UVA rating, a "high" "medium" "low" or "none" will be added to the product label.
Which I supposed means you could see products labeled with combinations like
SPF 2 High
So low burn protection and high UVA protection.
The new rules appear to go into effect in 2009. That gives manufacturers and stores time to get rid of stock on the shelves and inventory sitting around.
So in 2010, I’d like to see a poll of how many people understand what the new label actually means…