A team of researchers from Sanford USD
Medical Center analyzed the benefits that the new FDA guidelines for sunscreen
could offer the consumers in clearing the various misconceptions
and myths associated with sunscreens.
Sunscreen is used to protect the skin from harmful
ultraviolet radiations of the sun, which penetrate the deeper layers of skin,
damaging the cell DNA thereby predisposing the person to dermatological
The specifications and terminologies used for product
promotion often mislead the consumers in not making the right choice for sun
SPF (Sun Protection Factor) is a numerical
measure of protection offered by the sunscreen. Higher the SPF value,
higher is the skin protection. But the common misconception is that
sunscreen with higher SPF value offers protection for an extended time. FDA
recommends applying sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes prior to initial sun exposure
and reapplying it for every 2 hours. FDA
prohibits any product to claim to have an immediate effect and limits the SPF
value to a maximum of 50.
The intensity of UV rays, geographical locations and the
amount of sunscreen applied greatly influences the level and duration of
protection offered by the sunscreen against sunburns. For an average sized
person, 2 tbsp of sunscreen is recommended to cover the face, ears, neck, arms
Another misleading term is the 'Broad Spectrum'
status. According to FDA guidelines the products claiming to give
protection for a broad-spectrum should provide protection against both UVB and
UVA rays. Products without dual protection or with a SPF below 14 are required
to highlight the fact the product does not prevent skin cancer or skin aging.
FDA also recommends reapplication of sunscreens, which
are 'very water resistive' and 'water resistive' after being in water for 80
minutes and 40 minutes respectively. FDA
prohibits any product from claiming to be waterproof or sweat proof.
Studies, assessing the efficiency
of sunscreens in preventing skin cancers, which are rising at a drastic rate,
remain inconsistent in their findings.
Some studies have shown that excessive sunscreen usage in the long run might result in vitamin D
deficiency, which is primarily synthesized in our body by exposure to UV
Though people generally have good
tolerance for active ingredients of sunscreen, toxic hormonal effects have been
reported, which causes some concern. The analysts also indicate that people
with eczema might be sensitive to certain ingredients of sunscreen.
Further researches with long-term
follow-ups are necessary to evaluate the toxicity, sensitivity and effects of
sunscreen and its efficacy in preventing skin cancers and skin aging, they
The experts insist that apart
from using sunscreen additional measures, like avoiding excessive exposure to
sun especially during midday, and using protective clothing like sunglasses,
need to be followed in order get the maximum protection against the harmful
radiations of the sun.
The researchers thus conclude
that FDA guidelines, while providing a standardized regulation for the
manufacturers enable the consumers to have a better insight about the product
and make a better and safer choice.
Shining the Light on Sunscreen; Thaddaus et al; US Pharmacist 2012.