is Melanoma Awareness month. With warm weather and sunny days ahead,
most of us will be arming ourselves with all the essentials of spring
and summer flip flops, shorts, sunglasses, sun hats and,
of course, sunscreen.
protection options have become more plentiful than ever, including formulations
offering a smoother application or enhanced protection from ultraviolet (UV) light.
Fortunately, dermatologists can help you sort through the sunscreen clutter
separating marketing hype from proven science.
Zoe D. Draelos, MD, FAAD, from High Point, N.C., recently discussed the advances
that are making sunscreens more effective and more cosmetically acceptable, including
higher Sun Protection Factors (SPFs), UVA protection, smaller particles of active
ingredients, and enhanced stability during sun exposure.
have really evolved over the years, as we now have a variety of
formulations from creams and gels to lotions and sprays
that more effectively protect the skin from the suns harmful
UVA and UVB rays, said Dr. Draelos.
past, a common complaint was that sunscreens felt too sticky or
gritty when applied and therefore people avoided applying or reapplying
them. But now, more refined formulations have been developed that
make sunscreens smoother to the touch and less greasy making
them easier to wear by themselves or under makeup.
The SPF number on sunscreens largely reflects the products ability to screen
out UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays are of shorter wavelength, and primarily linked to sunburn and skin cancer.
the FDA also acknowledged that sunscreens should reflect their ability
to provide protection from UVA rays. UVA rays are longer UV wavelengths
that can pass through window glass and penetrate deeper into the
skin. These rays are primarily linked to premature aging and wrinkling
of the skin, but the latest scientific evidence indicates that they
may also contribute to the development of skin cancer.
important to note that an SPF of 50 doesnt offer twice the UV protection
of an SPF of 25, but a higher SPF can be beneficial for people with very fair
complexions or in instances where a person is going on vacation to a very tropical
or sun-intense climate, stated Dr. Draelos.
Draelos also indicated that the American Academy of Dermatology (Academy) recommends
a minimum of SPF15 regardless of skin type, and also commented on the importance
of selecting a sunscreen that offers UVA protection as well.
Without the FDAs UVA rating system, this selection is more difficult,
but consumers should look for products that indicate broad-spectrum
on the label or read the active ingredients listed on the back panel." Dr.
Draelos noted that a list of active ingredients to look for in broad-spectrum
sunscreen can be found on the Academys Sunscreen Fact Sheet.
area of sunscreen improvement is the development of formulations
that are more photostable. As Dr. Draelos explained, active ingredients
in sunscreen absorb or scatter UV radiation. But in doing so the
sunscreen breaks down and becomes less effective, essentially decreasing
its SPF and level of UV protection.
This is one
of the reasons that sunscreen needs to be reapplied frequently.
In photostabilized sunscreen, a chemical is added to the formulation
to absorb more UV radiation allowing the sunscreen molecule
to remain unaltered and absorb or scatter UV rays for a longer period
products containing both insect repellent and sunscreen have become increasingly
popular in recent years. Dr. Draelos explained that while these products offer
the convenience of a single application, some scientific evidence indicates that
the combination may actually decrease the SPF, and therefore the effectiveness,
of the sunscreen component of the product.
Dr. Draelos noted that there are issues with the application of
these products to achieve optimal protection against both biting
insects and UV rays. Although sunscreens should be applied
liberally at least every two hours, many insect repellents should
only be applied every six hours, and sparingly to exposed skin,
said Dr. Draelos. Applying a combination product too frequently
may pose the risk of insect repellent toxicity, but too few applications
may cause photodamage from the lack of UV protection.
added that other UV filters are currently being considered by the
FDA as new active ingredients. The FDA regulates sunscreens
as over-the-counter drugs, establishing the conditions under which
these products are recognized as safe and effective. If these new
active ingredients are approved, they should offer broader UV protection
and provide an opportunity for superior formulations in future sunscreens.
The availability of additional UV agents means you can do a better
job protecting your skin against damaging UV rays.
concluded by reminding that, in addition to wearing sunscreen, the
Generously applying water-resistant sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF)
of at least 15 that provides broad-spectrum protection from both ultraviolet A
(UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays to all exposed skin. Re-apply every two hours,
even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating. Look for the AAD SEAL OF
RECOGNITION on products that meet these criteria.
Wearing protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed
hat and sunglasses, where possible.
Seeking shade when appropriate, remembering that the suns rays are strongest
between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If your shadow is shorter than you are, seek shade.
Protecting children from sun exposure by playing in the shade, using protective
clothing, and applying sunscreen.
Using extra caution near water, snow and sand as they reflect the damaging rays
of the sun which can increase your chance of sunburn.
D safely through a healthy diet that may include vitamin supplements.
Dont seek the sun.
Avoiding tanning beds. Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause
skin cancer and wrinkling. If you want to look like youve been in the sun,
consider using a sunless self-tanning product, but continue to use sunscreen with
your birthday suit on your birthday. If you notice anything changing, growing,
or bleeding on your skin, see a dermatologist. Skin cancer is very treatable when