Over the years much has been written about sunscreen, suncare and sun safety. Sunscreen has become a hot and topical subject (no pun intended) and a wave of press is trying to educate the population on sun safety. The problem is the message is still unclear: SPF 15, 30, 45, 60, 85, 100+++, if it’s bigger it must be better?
Many people still don’t know that SPF (Sun Protection Factor) is based only on the UVB rays (short spectrum wavelengths 290-320 nanometers) and is generally for a measure of time, ie. SPF 30 gives you 30x more protection than not wearing any sunscreen. The UVB rays are the rays that give you the sunburn, think of UV B “burning” rays.
We now know that UVA rays (320-400 nanometers) mutate cells and aid in the breakdown of collagen, the elasticity of your skin and both UVA and UVB may cause skin cancer. Think of UV A “aging” rays. There are only a few ingredients that protect from “broad spectrum” UVA – Zinc oxide, Titanium dioxide, Avobenzone (or Parsol 1789) and Mexoryl (ecamsule).
In 1999, the FDA came out with a “new” monograph (new regulations) for sunscreen, and in my humble opinion, it was right on the mark (in some key areas) but failed to address UVA. It reads that nothing could be packaged to read higher than SPF 30+ (following the Australian standards [the most mature suncare market in the world]) and the terms “Natural”, “Non-chemical” and “Chemical free” are false and misleading in the labeling of OTC sunscreen drug products. It also stated that products could not say “All Day protection,” “Waterproof” or “8 hour waterproof.”
The major brands lobbied against this monograph and many, many years later still sold the higher SPF’s.
The new 2009 monograph, since the 1999 one was never fully adopted, is now completed. This monograph allows manufacturers to go as high as SPF 50+ (with provides 98% UV protection vs 96.7% for the SPF 30).
Bottom line, as a human being we have the opportunity to make a choice: BURN or PROTECT? Mineral or Chemical? Thick and Sticky or Soft and Silky? You choose and then find what that works for you: a cream, a lotion, a spray, UV clothing or just staying in the house. It’s up to you, but find something you are comfortable with and will USE and keep protected!