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New Facts About Sun Protection: Is Your Sunscreen Doing What it's Supposed to?

Even the sun knows to cover up!
Even the sun knows to cover up!

There’s nothing worse than spending the time and money for sun protection; thinking you’ve got it covered; only to find out that your info is dated and your sunscreen actually causes cancer instead of inhibits it. That sucks!

We approach the summer with knowing dread here in Houston. But we feel we are experts on what to do to stay cool and protect ourselves from the sun. We parents have a ritual with our kids who are much too preoccupied with their just-out-of-school freedom to be bothered with sunscreen, hats and best-time-of day concerns. We grown-ups know it up to us.
Still, as much as we feel we know, recent findings and warnings about sun protection warrant a moment of fresh reflection on our part. Chances are we need to update our sun protection regimen with the latest knowledge about the effectiveness of certain sunscreens and better ways to avoid the damaging rays of the sun.

[Okay, stop reading NOW. Go and gather up all of the sunscreens in your household. Turn the ingredients labels toward you. Now, proceed…]

New Labeling

The FDA is has required new labeling on sunscreens that highlight some of the dangers and falsehoods some of us currently operate under. This new labeling reflects some big changes:

“Broad Spectrum.” If you’ve picked up a product in the past thinking that it offered protection from both ultraviolet B radiation (UVB—primarily responsible for sunburn) and Ultraviolet A radiation (UVA- which contributes to aging and skin cancer), you may have been misled. Now the FDA requires products to pass a new critical wavelength test for UVA protection. So that when the bottle says “broad spectrum” it really means it.

“Sunblock” no more. The FDA has found that this claim is an across-the-board overstatement. Don’t be sad you can’t get sunblock anymore. As it turns out, you never could!
New Labeling. Now sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher that pass the new broad spectrum test can say they prevent cancer and premature aging. Those below SPF 15 or not broad spectrum can only say they prevent sunburn.

“all-day” “instant”, really? Also, products that make claims of lasting all day or that provide instant protection, have to prove it. It’s likely these claims will go away because most sunscreens must be applied every two hours and are not immediately protective.

New List of Safer Products

Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Sunscreens for 2012 reflects some new information as well:Generally, they suggest:
1. Read the labels carefully- (See above)

2. Choose a high SPF, but don’t let that protection justify long hours in the sun. You must take other precautions. Choose to be inside during the high sun hours of the day. And when you are out, keep applying your protection.

3. Sunscreen should not be the first line of defense against the sun. Think about your clothing, too. Cover up—hats, long sleeves, UVA protection clothes.

4. Choose a “baby” or ‘Children’s” sunscreen. These are more likely to be without the harsher chemicals, like fragrances and the dreaded Oxybenzone, which is a hormone-disrupting chemical. But you still must READ THE LABELS to be sure.

5. Go HERE to the EWG’s Sunscreen Guide to get an exhaustive list of safer products.

It promises to be another blazingly hot summer here in Houston. Make sure you prepare your household for real protection now that you are armed with the truth!


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