With summer in full swing and the temperatures rising everywhere, I found it apt to look into the area of sunscreen (or sunblock as we like to call it). Sam is under the sun so much these days (and in spite of the constant application of the sunblock her skin has already gone from tan to toast) I worry about how protected she is from its harmful rays. Recently there was news about the new FDA regulations on sunscreen claims, which hopefully will help prevent exaggerations on pack claims and false marketing.
I distinctly remember a session with Yvette, the product development manager in my past corporate life, as we were trying to brainstorm on claims for some skin products that would of course be “one-up” over competition (God I haven’t talked like that in ages!). As she was educating me on the layers of the skin and how deep or shallow any topical application could go, she specifically said that nothing above SPF 50 could be manufactured and mass produced, and “confined” to a bottle. So I am a wee bit skeptical of the current packs that claim SPF 70+.
Quoting the MSN NBC article:
“SPF is very misleading,” says dermatologist Dr. James Spencer, of St. Petersburg, Fla. “If I were a logical consumer, I would think that SPF 30 is twice as good as SPF 15. But SPF 15 blocks 94 percent of UVB rays. SPF 30 blocks 97 percent. Past 30, there isn’t much additional benefit to be had,” he says. “It may not be the best measurement, but the FDA has chosen to keep it.”
Nowadays there is a little bit more education on UVA / UVB protection (which they are calling “broad spectrum”) and are saying that only sunscreens which pass this test will be allowed to put it on their packs. In any case, before buying sunblock, look for the terms Homosalate, Avobenzone, and Titanium Dioxide as these are considered the chemical and physical blockers which will help diffuse the sun’s harmful rays. From what I’ve read, they have to at least be 7% to have some form of effectivity.
I was temporarily appeased that based on my recent research, what we have in the bathroom for ourselves and the kids is “good enough”. Needless to say I’ve taken extra pains to apply sunblock on Sam particularly when she goes to camp. I even send her out with a hat and a pair of shades for whatever added protection that can offer. What else am I to do after all?
And then I receive this note from my mom regarding ingredients in sunscreen that can actually cause cancer. To highlight some points, it says that we should be wary of vitamin A in sunscreens as this and derivatives like retinol and retinyl palmitate have been proven to bephotocarcinogenic — meaning they become toxic when exposed to sunlight. They can cause lesions and tumors on the skin (NOT something I wanted to hear considering I’ve been gooking Sam with sunblock on a daily basis!)
In any case, reading down further in the article, there was a link to a sunscreen guide database, which also rated and scored the hazard protection of the sunscreens on the market today. Taking a second look at this vis-a-vis the brands we have at home (assuming we can trust this source), I am now beginning to think I will switch brands!