New SC law should make it easier for children to bring sunscreen to school

Published: Jul. 26, 2023 at 5:25 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 26, 2023 at 7:32 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - With school set to begin in weeks, a new South Carolina law should make it easier for students to add sunscreen to their backpacks.

Before this summer, slipping a bottle of sunscreen into your child’s backpack for school without a doctor’s note was illegal in the Palmetto State. But state lawmakers said that law was ridiculous and did away with it.

“This is just a good example of commonsense public policy that addresses an actual need and comes up with a solution,” Patrick Kelly, the director of public affairs for the Palmetto State Teachers Association, said. “As a classroom teacher, I have high school students that are applying lotions at all manner of the day. I don’t need to be in the business of policing whether their lotion has SPF in it or not and whether that makes it illegal or not.”

The reason there had previously been so many restrictions around sunscreen in schools was because the Food and Drug Administration regulates it as an over-the-counter drug. So, like aspirin or antihistamines, the old law required that sunscreen be kept in the nurse’s office and that nurses themselves apply it at specific times.

Doctors say that wasn’t necessary and the new state law now in effect explicitly says, “Public schools shall not prohibit the possession or personal use of sunscreen.”

Dermatologists say sun exposure is a major risk factor for the development of skin cancer, and that unlike other risk factors, we actually have some control over it.

“Sun exposure and the sunburns you get when you’re young can lead to skin cancer as an adult,” MUSC dermatologist Dr. Anne LeClercq said.

One important note about the new law: It only applies to cream sunscreens, not aerosols.

Just a few years ago, sunscreen was banned or restricted in schools in most states because of its FDA regulation. But a nationwide push from dermatologists has led to some of those laws changing in recent years, like in South Carolina.