Sunscreen can be
defined as a kind of 'lotion, spray, gel or other topical product that absorbs
or reflects some of the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation on the skin exposed to
sunlight and thus helps protect against sunburn'.
Sunscreen is also
known as sun tan lotion, sun block, or sunburn cream. Generally sunscreens have one of the following components:
1. Inorganic compounds
such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide that can scatter, reflect, and absorb
harmful UV rays.
2. Organic compounds
capable of absorbing ultraviolet rays.
Sunburn is primarily
caused by UVB.† However, both UVB and
UVA can cause sunburn, skin cancer, and premature skin aging.
SPF refers to Sun
Protection Factor and is defined as 'the amount of light that induces redness
in sunscreen-protected skin, divided by the amount of light that induces
redness in unprotected skin'. Therefore, SPF is basically a measure of UVB
protection and its rating denotes the time taken to sunburn if one is not using
sunscreen as against time taken if using sunscreen.
against UVB rays responsible for causing sunburn, up to 96.7 percent.
An innovative step has
been taken by Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration, by giving green
signal to the selling of sunscreen with SPF50+. Two new sunscreen brands with
SPF50+went for commercial sale within past 24 hours, that too with revised
against UVB rays can be achieved by increasing SPF from 30+ to 50+ and it was
made clear that all sunscreen will have to raise SPF level in order to achieve
protection against ultraviolet (UVA) rays.
Dr Greg Goodman, the
Associate Professor of the Dermatology Institute of Victoria mentioned,
"For the first time what they say on the box is actually going to mean
Dr. Goodman added,
"Our understanding of UVA has improved along with the testing. We now know
UVA sets up immuno-suppression and the chance of getting skin cancer. UVA is
the main cause of sun-induced skin ageing."
Sunscreens with SPF50+
are quite common in Britain and Europe. With the new approved SPF standards,
Australia too, has joined the elite group of SPF50+ approved nations, along
with the United States.
As per FDA regulation,
sunscreen products with SPF values higher than 50, have to be labeled as SPF
50+. However, FDA does not have adequate data demonstrating that products with
SPF values higher than 50 provide additional protection compared to products
with SPF values of 50.
In Australia sunscreen
are treated as mere toiletries instead of medicines. According to the
manufacturers, the increased SPF has led to hike in the prices of sunscreen by
Alan Oppenheim, the
Managing Director of Ego Pharmaceuticals, expressed his doubts by saying,
"Many products on the market are already offering greater protection than
SPF30+. We know this. We could let dermatologists know and pharmacists know
this but until now we couldn't let the consumer know."
Dr. Goodman said that
renowned brands such as La Roche-Posay and L'Oreal's Lancome have also
re-launched their products with SPF50+. Jen Makin, the SunSmart Manager at
Cancer Council Victoria, firmly stated that no one should harbor any doubts
regarding the use of SPF30+ sunscreen. He said that sunscreen with SPF30+ have
an edge over the regular ones as they provide better protection against UVA
rays of sun.
It was in 1997 that
the standard of sunscreen was changed from SPF15+ to SPF30+. According to
Professor Diona Damian of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, 'the latest change
is definitely an overdue step, but not a radical one'. Professor Damian is of
the opinion that the new improvised sunscreen will enable people to
differentiate better products form good ones and be sure of the fact that they
are getting best protection against harmful radiation.
Australia has the highest number of skin cancer
deaths but the increased SPF might be effective in decreasing the harmful
effects of UVA on skin and prevent development of skin cancer.††