The New Seal of Recommendation

Since 1979, The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation Program has been helping consumers select the safest and most effective sunscreen products. It is the only labeling program worldwide that not only sets rigorous standards for sun protection products, but scrupulously verifies they are met. Now, just as sunscreens have improved, so has the Seal of Recommendation. The Foundation has introduced several key innovations to the program that will be completed by mid-2012. In addition to new sunscreen standards, including rigorous ultraviolet A (UVA) protection requirements, the Foundation is launching a new labeling system classifying sunscreens as either “Daily Use” or “Active,” depending on their intended purpose.

Daily-and-Active-Seals-of-Recommendation

The FDA’s sunscreen requirements serve only as rating and labeling guidelines. In contrast, the Foundation’s updated Seal will require scientific verification of each sunscreen’s UVA-protective and UVB-protective abilities. Additionally, there will now be two Seals of Recommendation – one called Daily Use and one called Active.

“Daily Use” products are intended to protect consumers from incidental sun exposure that occurs over short periods of time, during activities such as shopping and short drives. Examples of such sunscreen products might include daily moisturizers, cosmetics, foundations, eye creams and lip products. “Daily Use” products must have:

  • An SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 or higher
  • Validation of the SPF number by testing on 20 peopleA critical wavelength of 370 or Persistent Pigment Darkening (PPD) of 5 (both are measures of UVA protection) as tested on 10 people
  • Acceptable results for phototoxic reactions and contact irritancy testing on 20 people
  • Proof of photostability
  • Substantiation for any claims that a sunscreen is water- or sweat-resistant.


“Active” products are designed to protect consumers from extended sun exposure and during recreational activities such as outdoor sports, picnics and pool parties. Examples might include sport sunscreens and baby products. “Active” products must have:

  • An SPF of 30 or higher
  • Validation of the SPF number by testing on 20 people
  • A critical wavelength of 370 or Persistent Pigment Darkening (PPD) of 10, as tested on 10 people
  • Acceptable results for phototoxic reactions and contact irritancy testing on 20 people
  • Proof of photostability
  • Proof of water resistance


The transition to the new Seal program will be complete by May 2012. Until then, the more than 1,000 products that currently carry the Seal of Recommendation may display either one of the new Seals or the traditional Seal.

The Seal of Recommendation program enables the Foundation to educate consumers when they are making important decisions about sun protection that directly affect their skin health. The program has set the standard for safe, effective, and photostable sun protection products, including sunscreens, sunglasses, sun-protective clothing, specially treated auto and residential window film, shade umbrellas, and more.

The Foundation’s volunteer Photobiology Committee, whose physician members are experts in the study of the interaction between ultraviolet (UV) radiation and the skin, reviews all the safety and efficacy data for every product before it can be awarded the Seal. The members of the Photobiology Committee are chairman Warwick L. Morison, MD, professor of dermatology, Johns Hopkins Medical School, Green Spring, Maryland; Henry W. Lim, MD, chairman and Clarence S. Livingood Chair, Department of Dermatology, Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit; John Epstein, MD, clinical professor of dermatology, University of California at San Francisco; Heidi Jacobe, MD, assistant professor of dermatology, University of Texas Southwestern

Medical Center at Dallas, and Steven Q. Wang, MD, director, Dermatology Service, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, West New York, New Jersey