Consumers To Wait Another Summer for Clearer Sunscreen Labels

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COLUMBIA - Walking into the sunscreen aisle, consumers see bottles covered with labels touting  sun protection factor (SPF) with many different numbers- 15, 30, 50, 75. What do these numbers really mean? What's the difference between "sunscreen" and "sunblock." Consumers will have to wait another summer for the answers.

The federal government announced a plan last year to require sunscreen companies to label the bottles more clearly, making it easier for consumers to pick the best products to protect themselves from the sun.

The government was supposed to implement this plan in early June but at the beginning of the summer, the FDA announced it would delay the new requirements until December. The delay was prompted because of new changes companies have to make to the labels such as placing big warning labels on sunscreens that don't have SPF 15 or higher saying they "do not protect against skin cancer."

"They need to have a little bit more of a scale for how much protection you're actually getting because nobody knows what SPF four offers you for protection. You have SPF four, SPF 15, SPF 50. We need to know what the difference is," Columbia resident Whitney Dunn said.

The plan would also label some products as "broad spectrum" meaning they provide the best protection against skin cancer and ban misleading terms like "sunblock," "waterproof" and "sweat-proof." These sunscreen labels must also indicate a specific time limit of how long a user can expect protection while swimming or sweating, so consumers know how often they need to reapply.