Tuesday, August 20, 2013


By: Gregory P. Bourgeois MD
Summertime always brings about thoughts of vacations at the beach or laying out by the pool and basking in the glowing heat of the sun by the water.  We all know that common cancers of the skin are caused from harmful UV rays from the sun, often accumulated over many years of exposure.  Along with skin cancer, the signs of aging (wrinkles, brown spots, loss of skin elasticity) are due mostly due to the UV energy from the sun.  Yet we seek out the sun because it’s our nature to do so.
Sunscreen is the most potent product that can prevent skin cancer and aging.  In June 2011 the FDA announced a series of requirements for sunscreens in order to ensure they are being marketed to consumers with correct information for sun protection. 
-The term “broad spectrum” is now used to label a sunscreen that can effectively block both UVB and UVA. This goes further than the SPF value, which reflects the ability of the sunscreen to block the UVB spectrum only (the cause of sunburns).  A sunscreen must pass a test the FDA implements to measure UVA transmission in order to be designated “broad spectrum”.  A broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF of 15 or greater can claim to reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging (used with other skin protection measures) while non-broad spectrum sunscreens with SPF values between 2 and 14 can onlyclaim to help prevent sunburn.
-No longer can sunscreens be called “sunblock” or “waterproof” or “sweatproof” because this overstates their abilities.   They also cannot claim to provide protection from the sun for greater than 2 hours without reapplication or claim to provide immediate protection after application without supporting data.“Waterproof” will be replaced by “water resistant” and also indicate whether the sunscreen is effective for 40 minutes or 80 minutes while swimming or sweating based on testing. No sunscreens are waterproof because they eventually wash off!
-The standard “drug facts” label that we are all accustomed to seeing on any OTC drugs will now be placed on sunscreen bottles.
One can find that most sunscreens sold today contain the above labeling as these changes have been implemented over the last year.  Hopefully, these changes will bring the public’s attention to the long-term risks from sun damage and how to enjoy being outside in the sun safely. 
People often ask me, “Well, which one should I use?”  I recommend the sunscreen ingredients zinc oxide or titanium dioxide because they are physical sunscreens that deflect the sun’s rays and tend to be more photostable than chemical sunscreens.  These have been “microsized” to particles that are nanometers in size, so their application is very smooth without an opaque, white appearance; gone are the days of the lifeguard with white paste on their nose. Chemical sunscreens such as avobenzone, cinnamates, and ecamsule among others absorb the sun’s UV rays and convert that energy into heat that is quickly dissipated.
I hated putting sunscreen on as a kid – so greasy, sticky on your clothes and fingers, stings in your eyes and on your face, and didn’t seem to last long.  Industry has come a long way to address these concerns and has developed more elegant and robust vehicles so that those with sensitive skin won’t feel the stinging and that greasy feeling is gone.  At Shelby Dermatology we offer a wonderful line of sunscreens
by Elta MD that are all broad spectrum and have been formulated to fit the preference of any patient.  You can find more information at shelbydermatology.com.

Gregory P. Bourgeois MD is with Shelby Dermatology, PC
1022 First Street N Ste 201 | Alabaster, AL 35007| ( Office: 205.621.9500 | 7 Fax: 205.621.9507 |

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