Sun Protection and the New FDA Labels

As winter turns into spring and the sun comes out of hiding, it is time to discuss skin protection. Even in the places where the sun shines year round (like Miami), the strength of the rays hitting our skin begins to increase at this time of year. Sun protection is more important than ever right now, when your skin is as light as it will be all year and not accustomed to UV exposure.

Sun protection of course includes sunscreen, but it also involves other methods of protection. The FDA recently changed their sunscreen guidelines. SPF factor measures the amount of time a person can stay in the sun without getting a sunburn. The new labeling system will allow for a maximum SPF of 50+. However, SPF refers to UVB only and does not address protection against UVA. UVA, though not as carcinogenic as UVB, is actually the primary offender in the aging process, since it penetrates more deeply than UVB .

The words “broad spectrum” will indicate that the product blocks against UVA in addition to UVB. The terms “waterproof” and “sunblock” have also been eliminated from allowable labeling. This new labeling system will make choosing a sunscreen easier for the consumer to be sure they are using the correct protection.

As a dermatologist in Miami, I generally recommend using a topical antioxidant under sunscreen in the morning. This functions as a second layer of protection not only from UV, but also from daily exposure to environmental stressors like pollution and smoke. Antioxidants act by destroying the free radicals produced from UV and environmental damage. Free radicals can directly damage cells and proteins resulting not only in dull wrinkly skin, but also eventually in skin cancers.

Enjoy your spring weather, but be sure to protect your skin!

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