Summertime is here and that means higher temperatures and less clothing. The days are longer which means more sun. With more sun exposure, and the harm it can do, sunscreens will make their annual appearance on store shelves. For 2013, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has made some changes in the labeling rules for sunscreen companies. It is recommended to find a product with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) between 15 and 50 but companies should start labeling “broad-spectrum protection,” meaning they protect against UVA and UVB rays. Higher SPFs are discouraged, and the FDA may cap it at 50, as it is not clear if they are more effective and may offer a false sense of security causing users to not re-apply as often.
Products lower than 15 must carry a label warning that it will not protect against skin cancer. Sunscreen bottles cannot claim to be waterproof, only water resistant, and note a time limit of either 40 or 80 minutes before considered ineffective. The FDA has banned sunscreen powders and is considering banning sunscreen sprays. Some concerns are that sprays do not allow enough sunscreen onto the skin, the spray may be inhaled into the lungs, and they can be flammable due to the alcohol content.
The FDA has taken some criticism, though, for not being strict enough and even backing away from some of their own proposals, like a star system to help give consumers more information about UVA and UVB protection. Another critique is with vitamin A, retinol and its derivatives such as retinyl palmitate and retinyl acetate, which can increase sun sensitivity. Canadian health authorities appear to be concerned enough that they have proposed requiring sunscreens with retinyl palmitate carry a warning that they can increase the possibility of sunburn for up to a week. The FDA says there is not enough evidence to suggest any harm.
Other experts have weighed in on the matter, as well. Many have suggested keeping babies six months and younger out of the sun, as their skin is especially sensitive and sunscreen should not be used on them. Rather, they should be completely covered if outdoors. Children should stay inside when sun is the harshest (10AM- 2PM) because, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, a bad sunburn doubles the risk of melanoma when they get older. The Environmental Working Group has said to avoid products with oxybenzone, which may affect hormones and allow the skin to absorb more sun. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are highly recommended ingredients in sunscreen for their protective benefit. Scents or fragrances are discouraged as they just add more chemicals and allergens.
For more information on sunscreen or to see the effects of sun damage and how you can repair it, visit us at AgeFocus.net (in Southampton)! We can do a photo skin analysis on you that will show any damage you may have accumulated from sun exposure and discuss the treatments and procedures to correct or reverse it. We also offer a full line of skincare products, including sunscreen with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
– Anthony F. Ferrara