EU Overhauls Sunscreen Labels to Provide More Information to Consumers

European consumers can expect easier-to-understand labels on sunscreen lotions this summer as better safety labeling standards come into force across the European Union, officials said Monday.

The 27-nation bloc aims to do away with misleading claims of "100 percent protection" and "sunblock."

EU officials have urged manufacturers last year to change the way they present and advertise their sunscreen lotions. The European Commission said current labels on sun cream and similar products were failing to inform consumers of any deficiencies in their protection against skin cancer.

"We need to reinforce the essential message that sunscreen is only one of a number of measures that are necessary for effective protection against the sun," EU Consumer Affairs Commissioner Meglena Kuneva said.

The new labels should be available this summer as sunseekers and others go on holidays, EU spokeswoman Helen Kearns said. Restrictions on the sun lotion claims acknowledge that no sunscreen products can, by themselves, provide full protection against dangerous ultraviolet radiation.

The labels will apply to all sunscreens sold in the EU, and will also categorize the products as offering either "low," "medium," "high" or "very high" protection, depending on the sun protection factor (SPF).

For instance, sunscreens offering "medium protection" will offer an SPF of between 15 and 25.

The SPF, which allocates a number referring to how many times longer you can be in the sun without burning compared to when you are not wearing sunscreen, refers only to protection against UVB rays, not the more-dangerous UVA rays.

New labeling will now have to include a standard UVA seal defining what protection if any the product offers against UVA rays, the main cause of skin cancer and premature aging. However, the cosmetics industry is not expected to fully apply this new label to all products until next year, the commission said.

Sunscreens will also include easy-to-understand pictures warning against overexposure to the sun and a warning to cover up with clothing when necessary against dangerous UV rays. A picture also warns against exposing young children to too much sun.

EU officials appealed to consumers to ensure they follow proper instructions explaining that to reach an advertised level of protection, the right amount of cream or lotion should be applied.