Approximately one third of sunscreens provide less than half of the SPF claimed

Medscape (5/19, Doheny) reported, “About a third of sunscreens tested by experts…provide less than half the SPF protection claimed on the label,” according to Consumer Reports’ annual sunscreen report. According to the article, the Food and Drug Administration does not routinely test sunscreen products’ SPF.

Dr. Bader recommends sunscreens that have a high concentration of zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as the active ingredient(s). These are physical blockers, that reflect all of the suns rays (UVB and UVA).

Chemical blockers only work for specific wavelengths and break down, often within a few hours of sun exposure.

Those in the shade should still use sunscreen.

A recent study proved that those who applied SPF100 were less prone to sunburn than those who were in the shade. It is no surprise that sunscreen protects better than shade, as REFLECTION of the Sun’s rays cause sun damage.

What is more interesting, and already known by Dermatologists, is that even those who repeatedly applied SPF100 were still prone to getting sunburn.

Avoiding midday sun, applying a good sunscreen of SPF30 or greater, wearing sun-protective clothing, and being under shade should all be utilized whenever possible.

Sunscreens: Can you trust the label?

The simple answer is NO–at least when it comes to water-resistance.

In a recent study conducted by Consumer Reports, 43% of the 65 water-resistant sunscreens that were tested FAILED to meet their SPF claim on their labels after the area was submerged in water as indicated on the label for water resistance. Some of them,  missed their mark dramatically.

RECOMMENDATION: As always, it is recommended that one re-apply sunscreen after toweling off, sweating, or swimming.

 

AVO. A New drinkable sunscreen: Really?

A 34-year old Dermatologist has come up with a drink, called AVO, containing over 30 vitamins and anti-oxidants that reduces one’s risk for sunburn. Will this replace traditional sunscreen? Can we just take a drink and go out in the sun?

Not so fast! Although clinical studies show that one does burn less, it appears that this drinkable product is less effective than an SPF 2 sunscreen  in respect to burning. No, that is not a typo. TWO. Of course, long term studies are needed to see if the reduced risk of burning actually reduces the risk of skin cancer.

So, don’t throw away your sunscreen yet. For now, AVO might be a great adjunct to use in addition to sunscreen, as is topical Vitamin C, but it should in no way replace one’s sunscreen.

The new U.S. FDA guidelines for rating and labeling sunscreens

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United Stated. One should use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. The SPF rating system only applies to the protection the sunscreen has against UVB and will still be used. Here are the changes in labeling:

  • The highest SPF rating will now be 50+. You will not see any sunscreens with a rating of 70 or higher.
  • Only products with an SPF of 15 or higher will be able to claim that they protect against sunburn, skin cancer, and photo-aging.
  • Manufacturers can no longer claim that their product is waterproof or sweat-proof. Products can labeled water-resistant.

Recommendations:

  • Apply sunscreen liberally–do not use too little.
  • Reapply sunscreen often–at least every few hours and immediately after swimming.
  • Try to use water-resistant sunscreens that work for 40 or 80 minutes (under the new labeling system)
  • Always use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are two active ingredients that work well against all of the suns rays.
  • Use a sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or greater.

Does using sunscreen increase my risk of getting skin cancer?

This is a common question that I am asked that has a complicated answer. To put it simply, the answer is maybe. Studies have shown that people who apply sunscreen regularly are more likely to experience painful, damaging sunburns. In fact, these persons had a 23% greater risk of multiple sunburns within the past year. Why? There are several possible explanations for these results. Some persons may not apply enough sunscreen or apply it evenly to protect themselves properly. Secondly, many people who use sunscreen spend more time in the sun as they believe that they are more protected, although this can lead to increased damage and risk of sunburn.

In summary, regular use of sunscreen will reduce one’s risk of sunscreen if:

  • one does not increase their sun exposure because they are using sunscreen
  • if enough sunscreen is applied
  • the sunsceen is applied evenly.