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Sunscreen News You Can Use Right Now

Posted on: April 28th, 2021 by Kristen Chang

Think you’ll never get skin cancer? Think again—please. This year’s Skin Cancer Awareness Month comes on the heels of an ominous new prediction from the Journal of the American Medical Association.  A meta-analysis, which involves crunching a lot of published data, projects that as some cancers recede in the next decades, others will increase. One of these is melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.

Skin Cancer Risks

Skin cancer remains highly treatable when caught early. But that doesn’t mean getting it is not something to be concerned about. Research now links having more than one melanoma with an increased risk of developing both subsequent melanomas and other cancers, including those of the breast, prostate and thyroid, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. And although melanoma remains the deadliest of skin cancers, getting other types of skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma can also increase your risk for breast cancer and lung cancer.

The above risks are in addition to the incidence and mortality rate for skin cancers themselves. Skin cancers make up nearly half of all cancers diagnosed in the U.S., affecting one in five people over their lifetimes. It is estimated that 20 Americans die of skin cancer daily.

The takeaway from these facts? They reaffirm the importance of skin cancer screening, early detection, and prevention.

The Latest Scientific News on Sunscreen

In the 1970s, pioneering research by Dr. Margaret Kripke and her colleagues found that ultra-violet (UV) radiation can harm the immune system, thus setting the stage for skin cancer. Since then, sun care products drastically pivoted from tanning promotion to skin cancer prevention. However, not all sunscreens get the job done well.

Over the past decade, armed with new research, the FDA has tried several times to strengthen protection in sunscreen products. Some, but not all, measures succeeded. The primary concern is for products that may mislead consumers into thinking they are protected from dangerous rays and leave them more vulnerable to skin cancer risk.

The Burning Truth About “Waterproof”

We hate to break it to you, but there are no sunscreen products that truly are “waterproof or “sweat-proof.” In fact, the FDA has ruled manufacturers will no longer be able to use these terms in the future. Instead, products will be rated for the length of their “water resistance” as either 40 or 80 minutes. The advice for consumers is that no matter what the label says, reapply sunscreen after you have been in the water or exercising and at least every two hours.

Oh, and the term “sunblock”?  Another false claim. No product completely blocks out the sun.

Higher SPF May Not Be Better

According to the FDA, higher SPFs have not been proven to provide additional clinical benefit and may cause harm in the long run.

The FDA is concerned that claims of excessively high SPF values give users a false sense of protection, leading to overexposure to UV rays. The FDA emphasized that a science-based limit on SPF claims is needed to ensure that sunscreen claims present accurate protection provided by the product.

An earlier proposal to cap SPF label claims at 50 now has been scrapped in favor of compromising and setting the SPF limit at 60.

California Skin Institute’s board-certified dermatologists believe that a scientifically sound SPF of 30–50 is the sweet spot. Our own line of sunscreens range from 45 SPF to 50 SPF.

Think Zinc

For decades, Americans have been told—and rightly so—that sunscreen use is critical to prevent lasting skin damage and skin cancer from sun exposure. However, the FDA has not ensured that all sunscreen ingredients meant to provide such protection have been adequately tested for safety and efficacy. Now there is new concern that some of these ingredients find their way into the bloodstream. It is not known at this time whether this is bad, good or neutral.

Based on existing test data, the agency’s proposal highlights zinc oxide as one of the most effective and safe ingredients. This is why it is the leading ingredient in California Skin Institute’s sunscreen products.

Sunscreen and Beyond

Sunscreen ingredients basically fall into one of two categories: a chemical barrier or a physical barrier. Physical barrier-type sunscreens are made from pulverized actual minerals like zinc. However, because of their physical properties they can leave a chalky white residue on the skin. This is why sunscreens often combine a mineral protective barrier with a chemical one. These can offer the best of both worlds—protection without the white mask.

But there are other types of physical barriers to keep in mind. Your home, for example. Avoid sun if you can between 11am and 4pm when UV radiation is at its peak. What you wear can also provide a physical barrier between you and harmful rays. Cover up with clothing that has built-in sun protection, especially a hat with a full brim that’s at least four inches wide all around. Don’t forget sunglasses. Go for glam, big frames that shield as much of the delicate skin around your eyes as possible.

Hello Sun, Goodbye Collagen

If you need another reason besides skin cancer risk to limit your sun exposure, try this. Ultraviolet radiation breaks down your skin’s collagen. It also wrinkles your skin, turns it to dry leather and blemishes it with dark brown spots and moles which can become cancerous.

A variety of treatments and skin care products offered by California Skin Institute can help undo some or most of the sun damage. These include lasers, chemical peels, dermabrasion, retinols and cosmetic surgery. As fully trained dermatologists, we can also diagnose and treat skin cancer with procedures such as highly effective Mohs surgery.

As board-certified physicians and advanced practitioners, we emphasize the importance of wellness and prevention. We’d like to see you for a skin cancer screening. When you’re here, we can evaluate your skin and recommend the most optimal sunscreen products for you and other specific strategies for sun protection to keep you healthy and looking your best. Call today to make an appointment.