Sunscreens are not what they used to be. In the 1970s and 1980s, what mattered was a deep tan and UV radiation protection barely received a mention. But devastating skin cancer figures forced a rule change in a market worth about 1,000 million dollars in the USA alone and which relies on innovation to diversify.
Correctly labelling a sunscreen is no trivial task. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken more than 30 years to bring order to the sunscreen market and set standards to test the effectiveness of products. From 18 June 2012, sunscreens sold in the USA have to comply with new rules established by the FDA. They are required to be "broad spectrum”, i.e., they must protect against both UVA (responsible for premature ageing) and UVB (responsible for sunburn) and they must indicate how many minutes they remain effective after immersion in water. Read More
The skin is our protective shield against external aggressions. It works tirelessly, day and night, year in, year out, to ensure that our body is comfortably adapted to the environment. We are all very aware that it is vital to keep our skin healthy and that's why we care for it.
A recent study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that most medical consultations refer to skin problems. The research was based on an analysis of the medical records of more than 140,000 people (people of all ages, half of them men, the other half women) from Olmsted County (USA), who authorized statistical use of their data collected between 2005 and 2009. It was found that 42.7% of queries were related to various skin diseases and problems, followed by consultations regarding arthritis (33.6%), the back (23.9%) and cholesterol (22.4%), in that order. While the dermatology consultations referred to all kinds of skin conditions, acne and sebaceous cysts were the most frequent motives for consultation. It seems clear that when we observe a small change in the skin, we become more concerned than when we feel other symptoms.
It is not just a matter of lying down and smearing the skin with any product promising a safe and lasting tan. Sunscreens are not what they were. But how should we use the creams? Are they all safe? How much does clothing protect us? Here are some tips to make the most of our skin care.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), we should use a broad-spectrum shield, which protects against the UVA rays responsible for skin ageing and against the UVB rays that cause sunburn. It is best to use a high sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. This is even more important for people with fair skin (phototype I and II), children, pregnant women and people doing water or mountain sports who spend long hours under a blazing sun. For the first sun exposure, the SPF should never be under 15. We need not go to the other extreme, however, as an SPF of more than 50 does not afford more protection. Read More
Avoiding sun damage to the skin has many advantages: it prevents premature ageing and reduces the chances of disease. That’s why we rush off to buy sunscreens when the warm weather comes along. But omega-3 fatty acid, found in nuts and fish oils, may play a significant role in protecting our skin from the sun.
This is, at least, the evidence reported for a recent study led by Dr Lesley Rhodes of the University of Manchester (England). The sun induces immunosuppression in the skin, preventing the body from using natural means to fight against infections and cancer. Volunteers who took part in the experiment consumed 4 g of omega-3 daily and were exposed to simulated sunlight from a machine. It was demonstrated that immunosuppression was halved in periods of exposure of up to 15 minutes; for periods of 30 minutes the beneficial effects were not so evident. In view of the results, Dr Rhodes believes that regular intake of omega-3 can reduce our skin cancer risk throughout life. However, it cannot be considered a substitute for sunscreen – simply an extra measure of prevention to keep our skin healthy.