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Summer Safety: Effective Sunscreen

Posted By Regan Zambri & Long || 12-Jun-2008

Getting ready for a weekend at the beach? Going outside for a walk or bike-ride? If so, be sure to properly protect yourself from the sun. The FDA’s "tip sheet" offers advice on how to take steps to prevent skin cancer. These tips will surely help, yet a study released by the Environmental Working Group has shocking results. The study measured over 1,000 top brand-name sunscreens’ effectiveness and found 85% percent weren’t performing up to par.

The study showed only 15% of the 1,000+ sunscreens tested blocked UVA and UVB rays, maintained their effectiveness in sunlight, and contain a minimal number of hazardous ingredients. A comparison of American sunscreen products with those in Europe finds the latter had approved 28 types of UV filters whereas the former only 16 types. This disparity may be due to a less-complex regulatory process in Europe.

For those of us in the States, there is still hope. Here are some sun-care tips from the FDA:

  • Limit sun exposure
  • Wear protective clothing
  • Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outdoors
  • Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours
  • Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15
  • Beware of medications increasing sun sensitivity (ie, some antibiotics, acne medications, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen)
  • Wear sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats
  • For sunburn, apply a cold compress; for more moderate cases use topical corticosteroids such as hydrocortisone

Another informative and fun source of tips is the "Sun Safety Parenting Quiz."
Following are some helpful results of the quiz:

  • Shade: NOT safe from the sun
  • Dark, long-sleeved, and made of tightly woven fabric: Types of clothing more likely to provide better sun protection
  • 6 months: Earliest age to regularly apply sunscreen to your child
  • Some sun exposure: Healthy (source of Vitamin D, which has been linked to lower chances of developing diabetes)
  • Cloudy days: Can still get a sunburn
  • 10-4pm: Sun’s rays are strongest
  • Insect repellent: DON’T use with sunscreen, can lower its SPF

For more information, the FDA Tips Sheet and Sun Safety Parenting Quiz in their entirety are both helpful. In essence, there is no magical sunscreen that does it all. Instead, using common sense and following experts’ tips will limit harmful sun exposure.

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