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Sunscreen Facts

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The daily use of sunscreen is an important component to any skin care regimen.

Proper sun protection will make a great difference in a person’s appearance today and for the future. Ultraviolet light is the primary cause of exogenous skin aging, wrinkles, blotchy, pigmented skin and skin cancer.

What is SPF?

SPF represents the ability of a sunscreen to delay sun-induced redness. In theory, a person who applies an SPF 15 can stay out in the sun for fifteen times longer without incurring sunburn as compared to an individual not wearing sunscreen. Unfortunately, the studies with SPF pertain only to UVB, which is responsible for the immediate reddening from the sun as opposed to the effects of UVA, which are much later. Thus, use of sunscreen may not prevent all the harmful effects of the sun. And furthermore, no agent offers “sun block” as the name may imply.

Other terminology being utilized today is as follows:
Minimum Protection: SPF 2-12
Moderate Protection: SPF 12-30
Maximum Protection: SPF 30

Does it matter how thick sunscreen is applied?

Yes. Recent studies estimate that the average person applies an inadequate amount of sunscreen, roughly 20-40% of the amount that should be applied. A useful rule of thumb is that people get one-third the protection that SPF states. Thus, one should use as high a level of SPF as can be tolerated and use it liberally.

When should sunscreen be applied?

Sunscreen should be applied on a daily basis throughout the year, not just before going to the beach. The harmful effects of the sun is a year round phenomenon and is even an issue when one drives in a car as UVA rays penetrate glass. If one is going to the beach, however, to gain maximum protection, sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes prior to exposure. The exact time depends on the nature of the formulation being used and this information is beginning to be made available on the labels of the preparation.

Does sunscreen expire?

Yes. Some sunscreen preparations actually have expiration dates printed on the label. In the absence of this information, one should throw out any sunscreen that is over 3 years old.
Are there any potential adverse reactions to sunscreens?

It is rare to have a systemic reaction to sunscreen, however local reactions in the skin such as contact dermatitis, irritant and allergic dermatitis and phototoxic reactions are common. These may even occur in the absence of sun exposure. The most common ingredients to cause adverse reactions are PABA, benzophenones, cinnamates, and methoxydibenzoylmethane. Physical sunscreens containing Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide have never been implicated in causing allergic reactions and therefore are suitable for individuals with a history of allergic reaction to other sunscreens.

Are products that combine insect repellent and sunscreens effective?

This is a controversial topic today. Until proper studies are completed it is preferable to use separate products rather than the combination products.

Are all sunscreens of an equal SPF value equal?

No. Sunscreens vary in the way they protect from the sun. There are physical sunscreens, chemical sunscreens, UVB absorbing sunscreens, UBA absorbing sunscreens and combination sunscreens. They differ not only in the agents used to block the sun but also in the vehicles used to deliver the active ingredients. Sunscreens come in different formulations such as lotions, creams, oils, gels and sticks. Not every formulation is suitable for a given person. Typically the higher SPF agents feel greasier and more opaque.

What does water resistant mean with respect to sunscreens?

A sunscreen is considered ‘water resistant’ if the SPF is effective after 40 minutes of water immersion. Some sunscreens are labeled as ‘very water resistant’ but the term ‘water proof’ is being phased out as it in misleading. One must recognize that sunscreen needs to be reapplied regularly throughout the day to maintain maximal effectiveness even they are considered water resistant.

Can an aesthetician help in the choice of sunscreen?

The aestheticians at Reflections are experienced in helping patients decide on a proper sunscreen suitable to their needs and skin type. They not only evaluate your skin and skin type but also the level of sun exposure, dermatological conditions that exist and past experience with sunscreens. The aestheticians and physicians at Reflections recommend sunscreens with low incidences of adverse reactions and products that are easy and comfortable to wear. In this way we are able to get maximum compliance with sunscreen utilization. Three popular sunscreen product lines we have chosen for this reason include Dermatologica, Biomedic and Jan Marini.