Throughout May, which is National Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month, Healthy Hairdresser has been shedding light on sunning and sunscreens. According to City of Hope, skin cancer rates continue to climb, with melanoma diagnoses rising nearly 2 percent annually since 2000.
Two years ago, FDA handed down regulations regarding sunscreens addressing consumer safety. To be permitted to claim that the product reduces the risk of all sun-induced skin damage, including skin cancer, early skin aging and sunburns, the sunscreen must be labeled “broad spectrum” and have an SPF value of 15 or higher. This summer, the sunscreens developed in response to those regulations are hitting the market. Still, ingredients vary widely. Which ingredients should you look for?
Skin cancer expert Vijay Trisal, M.D., an assistant professor in City of Hope’s Division of Surgical Oncology, recommends using a sunscreen that contains at least one of the following ingredients in order to achieve broad-spectrum protection and reduce damage from both UVA and UVB rays:
In addition to choosing effective ingredients, you must use enough of the product to fully protect your skin. Studies show that many of us use so little, or fail to reapply after swimming or sweating, that we’re realizing only 10 to 20 percent of the potential protection.
“The SPF factor rates how effective the sunscreen is in preventing sunburn caused by UVB rays,” Trisal explains. “If you’d normally burn in 10 minutes, SPF 15 multiplies that by a factor of 15, meaning you could go 150 minutes before burning. For the vast majority of people, SPF 15 is fine. People who have very fair skin, a family history of skin cancer or conditions like lupus that increase sensitivity to sunlight should consider SPF 30 or higher.”
But that’s for lotions. Sunscreen sprays are not as clear-cut. The FDA has asked for more data on sprays to make sure that an adequate of sunscreen covers the skin and that the spray is not harmful if inhaled during the spraying process.