Protect Your Skin With the Right Sunscreen
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 conditions.
The specifications and terminologies used for product promotion often mislead the consumers in not making the right choice for sun protection.
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 and legs.
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 rays.
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 suggest.
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.
Reference: Shining the Light on Sunscreen; Thaddaus et al; US Pharmacist 2012.