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Understanding Sunscreens

Rebecca James Gadberry June 2006 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

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Q. Is it true that some major companies that sell sun block are being sued for lying about the effectiveness of their products?

A . Yes. In March, two of the United States’ top class action lawsuit firms filed a lawsuit against the makers of five sunscreens marketed as sun blocks—Banana Boat, Bullfrog, Coppertone, Hawaiian Tropic and Neutrogena. The suit alleges that certain statements made by these companies create a sense of artificial security that endangers users. “False claims such as ‘sun block,’ ‘waterproof’ and ‘all-day protection’ should be removed from these products immediately,” states Samuel Rudman, a New York-based partner with one of the filing firms, Lerach Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins LLP, in a published statement.

Although not widely acknowledged in the sun-protection world, these claims were deleted during the past decade from the terminology allowed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for sunscreens. The agency’s reasoning was very clear: No product can deliver on these types of promises. Sunscreens lessen the amount of exposure the skin has to ultraviolet (UV) rays, but they do not block them altogether. No sunscreen is absolutely waterproof, but if it remains active after 40 minutes of exposure to water, the FDA says it can be described as “water-resistant”; 80 minutes of activity earns it a “very water-resistant” claim. After toweling off, regardless of how much time a person spends in the water, every sunscreen must be reapplied.

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