Sunscreen 101

Written by on June 30, 2012 in Beauty Tips, Skin Diseases - No comments

 Sunscreen 101

Sunburn’s aren’t just uncomfortable and aesthetically unappealing, they may lead to skin cancer.

 Skin cancer is the number 1 cancer in the USA.  While most non-melanoma skin cancers ( basal cell and squamous cell) are not responsible for death, they can be disfiguring and locally destructive.

In addition to the 3-4 millions of non- melanoma skin cancers, there are approximately 130,000 melanomas yearly.  Melanoma is curable if caught early, but deadly if missed.  One person in the USA dies every hour of metastatic melanoma.

There is now good evidence that regular sunscreen use does reduce the risk of skin cancer, in addition to minimizing aging of the skin.  For the most benefit, sunscreen protection should be worn daily, as UVA rays are in our atmosphere all year long, and travel through glass.  UVA is a more deeply penetrating ray, and is more likely to induce melanoma, as well as skin wrinkling, blotching, and general loss of elasticity.

 UVB rays, responsible for burning, are a concern in our summer.  Their shorter, less deeply penetrating wavelength more commonly induce the two non- melanoma skin cancers.  Most sunscreens easily protect from UVB, and years ago, SPF factors were devised to indicate burn protection.

UVA radiation is more difficult to protect against, and old sunscreen labeling did not give good, clear information on UVA effectiveness.  This will change with the new labeling, as manufacturers will have to prove their products broad spectrum coverage, and SPF numbers will be re-evaluated, with a limit likely put on the maximal effectiveness number.Also, makers will no longer be able to advertise a product as waterproof.

New sunscreen regulations will soon take place, though some specifics are still being debated. Here is what you need to know to protect your self NOW.  Sunscreens help to minimize the damage we get from ultraviolet radiation. It is the best anti- aging product available, though people rarely wear it properly.


UV sensitive photograph showing the visible effects of sunscreen use.

Individuals should now be choosing a sunscreen based on it having at least an SPF 15 for every day use, with knowledge that some of the ingredients are good UVA blockers, such as ecamsule(mexoryl), avobenzone( parasol or Neutrogena’s branded parsol called Helioplex) and titanium dioxide.  Reading ingredient lists on the package will be necessary until there is better labeling by years end.


Neutrogena’s Helioplex is an everyday moisturizer with SPF 50, good for daily sun protection.

For outdoor activities, individuals should choose an SPF of 30-50, though more important is the need to reapply, every 2-4 hours, especially with humidity, water sports, and sweating.  Remember that a shot glass-ful for the body,outside the swimsuit, is what is expected.  Quantity used, and reapplication are critical for achieving the protection advertised.

An oral capsule containing polypodeum leucotomos ( Heliocare) can extend the benefit of your sunscreen.  Other oral sunscreen agents are in the pipeline, though none ready for approval soon.

Heliocare is an oral supplement which helps reduce skin damage from UV.

Recommended Sunscreens:

Some of the best sunscreen products are those made by :
LaRoche Posay(Anthelios)


Elta MD



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