Most People Don’t Know How To Read A Sunscreen Label, According To Study

By: Elizabeth Palermo
Published: June 17, 2015 11:23am ET on LiveScience.

You know you should wear sunscreen, but do you know what to look for in a sunscreen? If you answered “nope” to that question, you’re not alone. Lots of people have trouble picking out a bottle of sunblock, a new study suggests.

Fewer than half of the 114 study participants could correctly identify how well a sunscreen protected against health problems such as sunburn, photoaging (premature aging of the skin caused by exposure to sunlight) and skin cancer just by looking at the product’s label, according to the researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago who conducted the study.

Only 49 percent of the participants surveyed knew what the letters “SPF” on a sunscreen bottle stood for. (It’s an acronym for “sun protection factor.”)

And it’s not just the small sampling of people who participated in the study who have trouble deciphering sunscreen labels, said Dr. Jennifer Stein, an assistant professor of dermatology at New York University’s Langone Medical Center who was not involved in the study. [5 Surprising Things About Sunscreen]

“At least half of the patients I see — especially this time of year — ask me questions about sunscreen,” Stein told Live Science. “Very frequently, people are confused about the different kinds of protection they can get from sunscreen. And everybody wants to know what to look for.”

One of the reasons people might have trouble deciphering sunscreen labels could be that, prior to 2012, these labels looked a bit different from how they appear now. In the past, sunscreen manufacturers were required to display only one bit of information — the SPF rating, which shows how well a product protects against ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. UVB rays are the kind that can ruin —> Read More