Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sunscreen Myths Put to Rest

You do not need sunscreen in winter or on a cloudy day

False. You need sunscreen EVERYDAY. The ozone layer and clouds help screen us from some UV rays but at least 80% of the rays still hit the earth and even if you don’t feel the heat of the sun, UVA rays are still present. Not to mention that whatever UV rays that hit the earth get reflected off surfaces and yes, onto our skin.

This is especially true if you live in the city. UV rays reflect off buildings, windows, cars etc and if you aren’t protected by sunscreen or sunblock, you are just soaking up the rays and generating free radicals within your body. During winter or on cloudy days you can use sunscreen with a lower SPF with a minimum of SPF15 but try not to compromise on your UVA blockers.

You do not need sunscreen if you stay indoors

False. Even if you do not get the sun’s rays UVA rays can still penetrate into our homes. Also, UV rays get generated from lights and television screens and computer monitors so do not abandon your sunscreen even if you are planning to stay indoors the whole day.

I can’t wear sunscreen because I will break out

False. Try to look for a sunscreen with physical blockers like Titanium Dioxide or Zinc Oxide or natural sunscreens. It is common for people to be allergic or to break out from chemical sunscreens but physical blockers will have a lower risk of breaking out sensitive skin. This is not to say that physical blockers will 100% be safe for the skin. I discussed what are chemical and physical sunscreens in a previous post.

The higher the SPF the better the sunscreen

False. SPF is a measure of sun protection and an accepted measure of how the sunscreen performs against blocking UVB rays. However there is no general accepted measure of UVA blocking. Japan uses the PA rating for rating UVA blocks which we are familiar with these days. So, in the tropics try to get a sunscreen with at least SPF30 and PA+++ for better sun protection.

I should stock up on a sunscreen I like during a sale

False. Sunscreens have a shelf life of between 2.5-3 years from the date of manufacture. After that the ingredients may not be as effective anymore and you may in fact be doing your skin a disservice by using old sunscreen because the blockers may no longer be doing their job effectively. Always buy sunscreen that is as close to its manufacturing date as possible. This also means that unless you can get fresh stock at a warehouse sale, that is no place to shop for your sunscreens!

The headline:Antioxidants make better sun protection.

The reality:Antioxidants such as green tea and dark-red fruits may be able to mitigate only a little of the damage that sunscreens miss. For example, green tea offers some UV protection, but studies have mostly looked at 100 percent green tea applied topically, not how well it works incorporated into a cream. The bottom line: "Antioxidants make great supplements to sunscreen," says Dr. Draelos. "But until the FDA puts them on the list of sunscreen actives, don't expect them to replace broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreens."

The headline:You shouldn't wear sunscreen because it filters out good-for-you vitamin D.

The reality:This suggestion makes dermatologists absolutely crazy; many believe it's a notion perpetuated primarily by the indoor-tanning industry, which stands to profit from people using tanning machines to boost their vitamin D. Here are the facts: Sunscreenscanlower vitamin D production, but you can easily make up for this loss with food sources (salmon, fortified milk, etc.), vitamins, or even the most trivial amounts of sunlight, according to dermatologists. "It's still much safer to get your vitamin D from a pill than to stay in the sun without protection," says Dr. Leffell. How much D do you need to reap its benefits? Many experts think current vitamin D recommendations are set too low, so definitely check with your doctor for dosing advice.

The headline:Sunscreens won't prevent skin cancer (and may even cause it).
The reality:Some researchers blame sunscreens for encouraging the notion that it's OK to stay in the sun for prolonged periods, provided you're slathered in SPF. They also point to steadily rising skin-cancer rates as proof of sunscreen's relatively poor performance. But dermatologists say it's people's behavior, not their sun protection, that's behind those alarming statistics. "Sunscreens can prevent skin cancer, but they need to be part of an overall protection program," says David J. Leffell, M.D., professor of dermatology and surgery at the Yale School of Medicine. "You also need to stay out of the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., wear protective clothing, and seek shade whenever possible."

1 comment:

  1. I love all the tips written in your blog. This is the information that every girl must know. I believe you are a dermatologist, so where can we visit your clinic doctor?