|Image credit: Walgreens.com|
So what’s the big deal about SPF? SPF is an acronym for Sun Protection Factor. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for the regulation of sunscreen products. Although the manufacturer may suggest when to reapply sunscreen, the FDA says that the SPF does not apply to the time in the sun but the actual exposure. The sun is more intense in the middle of the day and different skin types absorb sunlight in variable amounts. The FDA also proposed a regulation limiting the maximum SPF to 50 as data is needed to confirm the higher SPF’s provide more protection. I don’t care if they’re waiting for data, I’ll use the highest SPF that I can get from a reputable manufacturer.
Several years ago, my dermatologist also recommended using a “sunblock” which at that time meant containing zinc oxide. Many people use zinc oxide on their noses for extra protection in some pretty wild colors. However, in 2015, the FDA mandated that the term “sunblock” cannot be used by manufacturers. A quick look at these products show SPF’s that are the same as other sunscreens. So much for purple noses.
There is also the issue of UVA and UVB protection. What the heck are those and why should I care? UVA stands for ultraviolet A and UVB means ultraviolet B. Ultraviolet rays cause sunburn and skin damage. They are not visible to the human eye although some insects and birds see them. The electromagnetic wave length of ultraviolet light is shorter than visible light on the purple end of the spectrum. Therefore they were named ultra violet. UVA pass through the atmosphere. The ozone layer of the atmosphere absorbs some of the UVB rays while in transit. There’s even UVC rays but the ozone layer absorbs those completely. UVB rays penetrate the outer layer of skin, the epidermis. UVA rays penetrate more deeply to the middle layer, the dermis. The FDA requires that products labeled as “broad spectrum” pass a test that proves the product provides UVA protection in proportion to UVB rays.
I have many risk factors for skin cancer-fair skin, freckles, blistering sunburns as a child, and my red headed mother had basal cell carcinoma. I am so glad that I found Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen.