FDA fights sun-damaged skin
July 11, 2011
In the era of the Marlboro Man, “Get a quick tan with Coppertone,” was a popular ad. Summers were devoted to browning in the sun like a roast pig on a spit, and the darker you got, the more your social status rose. Now we know that UVB rays cause burning, UVA rays cause wrinkling and both cause cancer.
After 33 years of consideration, the FDA has just decreed that sunscreens must protect equally against both kinds of radiation (UVA and UVB). The term broad spectrum designates a product that protects against UVA and UVB rays. In the past there were sunscreens that provided UVB coverage, but not UVA.
And only sunscreens that have a sun protection factor (SPF), of 15 or higher will be allowed to claim that they help prevent sunburn and reduce the risks of skin cancer and early skin aging. SPF indicates the amount of sun exposure needed to cause sunburn on sunscreen-protected skin compared with unprotected skin. For example, an SPF of 30 means it would take you 30 times longer to burn wearing sunscreen than with exposed skin.
In a race for sales, manufacturers are still trying to hit SPF ratings to the moon. Sunscreen is available in SPFs of 70, 80, 90 and 100 although these higher ratings provide little more protection than an SPF of 50. Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s drug center told the New York Times, June 14, 2011, “Right now, we don’t have any data to show that anything above 50 adds any value for anybody.”
The FDA has also banned manufacturers from advertising sunscreens as waterproof or sweatproof. Instead, manufacturers will be allowed to state, depending on test results, for how many minutes these products are water resistant.
No regulations can address the most common problem with sunscreens lotions: consumers fail to use enough. Regardless of SPF, sunscreens should be re-applied at least every 2 hours.
If you have facial sun damage, you might be a good candidate for skin resurfacing, including chemical peels, dermabrasion and laser resurfacing. A board-certified plastic surgeon understands the many variables associated with skin damage and can help you select the best treatment.
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