Why Consumers Haven’t Been Protected
Now that summer is here, the surgeons and staff at The Plastic Surgery Group in Albany want you to have the latest news about sun exposure, so you can lower your risk of sun-related problems yet still enjoy the warm summer sun!
Why is Sun Exposure a Concern?
The dangers of sun exposure are well known: sunburn; premature wrinkling; leathery skin; pigment changes such as red and brown spots, and an increased risk for skin cancer. We’ve been told to slather on the sunscreen like a religious rite each time we leave the house, year-round, even when working in an office environment where the lighting, computer screens and copy machines give off damaging rays.
Skin Cancer facts:
- More cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the US each year than new cases of breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancer-combined.
- One in 5 Americans will get skin cancer in his or her lifetime.
- Every hour one American dies from skin cancer.
- The leading cause of skin cancer? Unprotected exposure to UV radiation.
- Overexposure to UV radiation has been proven to weaken the immune system.
UVA = Ages you! UVA rays penetrate deeper than UVB rays, resulting in leathery, saggy, and wrinkled skin. UVA rays are a lesser cause of skin cancer than UVB rays, but they increase the carcinogenic potential of UVB rays. UVA rays also increase the risk for cataracts.
UVB = Burns you! UVB rays cause sunburn and a much greater risk of skin cancer than UVA rays. However, UVB rays also create Vitamin D, which we need for normal nervous system function, as well as for bone growth and bone density; immunity; cell creation; insulin secretion, and maintenance of blood pressure. Further, UVB light has been an effective treatment for skin conditions such as eczema, vitiligo, and psoriasis. If you suffer with one of these problems, you probably notice an improvement in the summer.
What is Sunscreen?
Sunscreen prevents UV rays from reaching your skin. Over the past 25 years, as concerns increased about the depletion of the ozone layer (which blocks UV rays from reaching us), sunscreen has become more ubiquitous-often included in makeup products, such as foundation or powder, and in various levels of SPF protection, ranging from 15 and above. Some sunscreen products claim to be “broad spectrum,” and some claim to be “waterproof.”
What Makes Sunscreen Work?
Sunscreens contain organic chemicals that absorb UV light, as well as particulates that scatter the light, like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. Many sunscreens will block UVB radiation, preventing sunburn, but do nothing to protect against UVA radiation, which increases the risk for melanoma. A “broad-spectrum” sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB exposure.
What Is SPF?
SPF stands for “sun protection factor,” a laboratory measurement of a sunscreen’s effectiveness to protect the skin against sunburn-that is, against UVB rays, not UVA rays. Theoretically, if your unprotected skin usually begins to burn within 20 minutes of exposure to the sun, an SPF 15 sunscreen would lengthen the time before your skin reddens by 15 times or, in this example, by 5 hours. A problem with this is that there’s no standard measurement of sun strength-is that 5 hours of protection at high noon or at 10 AM? Further, swimming and/or sweating can wash off the sunscreen. Last, plenty of damage can be done to your skin even if you don’t get a sunburn, because the UVA rays are still penetrating your skin.
The FDA Weighs In
Last June 2011, the FDA issued a Final Sunscreen Rule, which addressed the testing and labeling of over-the-counter (OTC) sunscreen products. The FDA published a Draft Enforcement Guidance for Industry document, further explaining the Final Rule; a Proposed Rule on sunscreens with SPFs over 50; and an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking(ANPR), recognizing and requesting information about alternative dosage forms of sunscreen products such as sprays, shampoos, powders, and wipes.
The Final Rule requires the following:
- A sunscreen product must pass a “Broad-spectrum Test” to be labeled as “broad-spectrum.”
- Sunscreens with an SPF of 14 or lower, and broad-spectrum sunscreens that fail the test can only claim to prevent sunburn and must carry a “Skin Cancer/Skin Aging Alert” warning label.
- Sunscreens with a broad-spectrum SPF of 15 or higher can claim to reduce the risk of skin cancer or early aging if used as directed.
- Sunscreens cannot be labeled as “waterproof,” “sweatproof,” or be called a “sunblock” because these claims overstate effectiveness. The word “water-resistant” can be used if the manufacturer states the product has a 40 or 80-minute protection limit for sweating or swimming based on standard testing.
- If a product is not water-resistant, it must instruct users to apply a water-resistant sunscreen when swimming or sweating.
- Sunscreens cannot claim to provide protection for more than 2 hours without re-applying.
- Sunscreens cannot claim immediate sun protection unless they have data that proves this, along with FDA approval to post that claim on the product or in advertising.
Although the ingredients in modern sunscreen products have been used for many years and the FDA does not have a reason to believe these products are not safe for consumer use, to make certain that sunscreen products meet safety standards, the safety information available for active ingredients included on sunscreen labels is currently under evaluation.
What Type of Sunscreen Should You Use?
Our recommendation is to use only a zinc oxide sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. If you spend a great deal of time outside, look for water resistant sunscreen. Because they are a bit stickier, you may not want to use water resistant products on a daily basis, though they’re super when you’re tending to the garden or at the beach or pool.
How Much Sunscreen Should You Use and How Often Should You Apply It?
Studies show that most people don’t use enough sunscreen. The estheticians in The Plastic Surgery Group’s Albany Skin Care Center, Marika and Ruth, recommend that you apply 1 oz – about a shot glass full, 30 minutes before sun exposure and every 2 hours thereafter. Over the course of a full day, an individual should have applied about ¼ to ½ of an 8 oz. bottle of liquid sunscreen! Of course, you should reapply immediately after swimming, toweling off, or sweating a great deal.
What To Do Now?
Call The Skin Care Center at 518-438-0505 to see Ruth or Marika for the sunscreen that’s best for your needs. These two gals are experts in skin care and will be sure you have the best protection possible!