New S.C. law lets students bring sunscreen to school without a doctor’s note

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Published: Jul. 26, 2023 at 5:45 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - For the first time, starting this upcoming school year, South Carolina families will be able to send their kids to school with sunscreen without also needing a doctor’s note.

A state law that was in effect until just this summer prohibited sunscreen from being slipped into backpacks without proper documentation.

It’s because the FDA regulates sunscreen as an over-the-counter drug.

“It had to be taken to the nurse’s office. They had to have a specific time at which to go to the nurse to have it applied, and then the nurse had to apply it,” Dr. Anne LeClercq, a dermatologist with MUSC, said.

But a new state law, enacted in May, makes it clear: “Public schools shall not prohibit the possession or personal use of sunscreen.”

It only applies to cream and lotion sunscreens, not aerosol and spray types.

“The fact that sunscreen was something that students couldn’t have in their possession — I’ve taught for 20 years, and I actually didn’t know that until this bill was introduced, and it’s just good common sense,” Patrick Kelly, a high school teacher in Richland County and Director of Governmental Affairs with the Palmetto State Teachers Association, said.

The PSTA voiced its support for the bill as it makes its way through the state legislature this year.

Kelly said the change is good for teachers, too.

“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,” Kelly said.

Dr. LeClercq recommends South Carolina families take advantage of the new law for this school year and those to come and include a bottle of sunscreen among the other supplies on their back-to-school shopping lists.

“Very rarely we do see skin cancer in kids, but it really is this idea that the sun exposure they’re getting now is going to lead to skin cancer when they’re older,” she said.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the US, with more diagnoses annually than all other cancers combined, according to LeClercq.

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