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The 411 on Sunscreens and Sunblocks


Sunscreen (also known as sunblock) is a lotion, spray or other topical product that absorbs or reflects the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and protects the skin. Medical organizations such as the American Cancer Society recommend the use of sunscreen

The sunscreen agent is thought to prevent cellular damage. It may be chemical, physical, or a combination of both.  The best cosmetic a person can wear for preservation of his or her youthful appearance is a sunscreen. It can cause an apparent reversal of some photoaging and keep the skin youthful looking.

Physical sunblocks are important for individuals who must be absolutely protected from the sun. They also are important to protect the most vulnerable parts of the body, such as the ears, nose tips, shoulders, and cheeks.


Who should wear sunscreen?

Put simply: Everyone. Protect your skin.

No matter your age, you need to protect your skin from the sun. Not only can excessive sun exposure lead to skin cancer, it will also cause dryness, sun spots, wrinkles and other skin problems. Always use a moisturizer, sunscreen and cosmetics that contain SPF 15 or higher. If you spend a lot of time in the sun each day, wear both sunglasses and a hat.

The sun's UV rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes, and people of all skin colors can be harmed by those ultraviolet rays. Sun damage is cumulative, so you must protect yourself every day.
Apart from those who spend a lot of time outdoors ( either for work or play) you are more likely to get skin cancer from exposure to the sun if you have one or more of the following:  

  • Lighter natural skin color.
  • Skin that easily sunburns, freckles or gets red (or becomes painful from the sun).
  • Blonde or red hair.
  • Blue or green eyes.
  • A family member who has had skin cancer. 

Kids are among the most vulnerable, because, according to a 2006 review article published in Pediatric Dermatology, most people receive 50% of their total lifetime sun exposure before the age of 18. So it is more important than ever to educate kids and families about skin cancer and smart sun protection.

Sunscreen Saves

If preventing skin cancer is not enough motivation, there are other benefits to using sunscreen.

Sunscreens help prevent the premature aging of skin from sun exposure; “photoaged” skin tends to be wrinkled and leathery, and has irregular pigmentation. When taking medications that sensitize the skin to sunlight, high SPF sunscreens are helpful though not a total guarantee of protection. Sunscreen also prevents freckles.


When to use sunscreen

Most sunscreens aren’t effective until about 30 minutes after application.

The key ingredient of many sunscreens is PABA, or para-aminobenzoic acid, which protects the skin by absorbing ultraviolet light. But PABA has to bind to the skin to be fully effective, and that takes about half an hour once the screen has been applied.  So apply it every day after you shower and before you go out into the sun.

The International Dermal Institute (IDI) advises us not to only use sunscreen on warm, clear days, but also on sunny winter days, when it's cloudy and even while driving. "We need to protect our skin any time it's exposed to daylight, not just when we think our chances of exposure are higher," says Dr Diana Howard, vice-president of Research and Development for The IDI.

Research shows that daily low-grade exposure to sunlight can be just as damaging as short, intense exposure with sun protection. Howard adds, "The proper application of sunscreen on a daily basis is as mandatory to skin health as proper cleansing."

Before application, shake the bottle well before use to mix particles that might be clumped up in the container.

Use sun protection on all parts of your skin exposed to the sun, including the ears, back, shoulders and the back of your knees and legs. If blemishes or sensitive skin is an issue, special non-oil-based sunscreens are available for use on your face. Be sure to apply enough; as a rule of thumb, use an ounce, approximately a handful to cover your entire body every couple of hours. Apply it thickly and thoroughly, and get help for hard-to-reach places like your back. Two trouble spots that don't work so well with suncreen: Your scalp and your eyelids.  So use hair care products with a sunscreen wear a hat and wear sunglasses.
Keep in mind that sunscreen wears off. Put it on again if you stay out in the sun for more than two hours, and after you swim or do anything that makes you sweat.

The constant use of a photoprotector can promote an apparent reversion of photoaging giving skin a younger aspect. A great improvement may occur with suppression of exposure or photoprotection, even when started late in life. There is formation of neocollagen and new elastic fibers, giving the same aspect as seen in nonexposed skin


Which Sunscreen is the best  

Which sunscreen is best?

Sunscreens come in many forms, including lotions, creams, gels, ointments, wax sticks and sprays. What's most important is to choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against UV-A and UV-B rays and has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. “

How to avoid getting burned when buying sunscreen

The Food and Drug Administration has a standard for measuring a sunscreen’s effectiveness in blocking UVB rays, but no such measurement for UVA rays. That’s where you can benefit from knowing what’s in your sunscreen.

Sunscreen companies have been busy creating formulas that effectively combat both types of rays. One of the most effective ingredients is called Mexoryl SX. It was patented by L’Oreal in 1982 in Europe.

The FDA finally approved it for use in the United States in 2006. The key to the ingredient is that it stays effective for long periods of time. Otherwise sunscreen should be reapplied about every 30 or 45 minutes.

Reading labels

Read product labels, and be aware that while a pricey brand might feel or smell better, it is not necessarily more effective than a cheaper product. Realize that not all sunscreens have the same ingredients. For example, buy one that does not contain para-aminobenzoic acid, aka PABA, if you are sensitive to that ingredient. And, of course, if your skin reacts badly to one product, try another brand or call a doctor for advice.

Broad spectrum” sunscreens are best.

Use sunscreen products that offer protection against both ultraviolet B (UVB) light, which is primarily responsible for tanning and burning, and ultraviolet A (UVA) light, which penetrates deeper into the skin. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using screens with a minimum sun protection factor (SPF) of 15.

Look for sunscreen products that provide “multi-spectrum protection” and “broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection.” Make sure sunscreen has the right ingredients to protect you from both rays.

Two of the hottest new sunscreen technologies for protecting our exposed epidermis are Helioplex in the Neutrogena brand and Active Photobarrier Complex in the Aveeno product line. Both technologies stabilize the critical ingredient avobenzone (Parsol 1789), promoting maximum protection. Dr. Kimberly Edwards of Dermatology Associates, PA, suggests a sunscreen that uses this new technology. Neutrogena’s Ultrashear SPF 70 is her sunscreen of choice and she recommends that you make sure the words "broad spectrum" are written on the tube so you can protect against the wrinkling effects of the sun, as well.

The Skin Cancer Foundation's Seal of Recommendation for Sunscreens listed alphabetically.



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Disclaimer: Information on this web site was gathered from many sources in public domain such as published books, articles, studies and web sites. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Please discuss your health conditions and treatments with your personal physician.


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