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April 26, 2015

Burning facts about sunscreens

Most of us are aware of the importance of wearing sunscreen, especially in the Philippines where the sun’s ultraviolet radiation levels are usually high. But with many sunscreen options available in the market today, it can be confusing to choose the right product.


“Sunscreens shield our skin from the sun's harmful UV rays. However, not all products labelled with sunscreen claims effectively do their job. Some can also irritate the skin and trigger allergies. People need to pay attention to the sunscreen’s ingredients and labels to ensure safety,” says Dr. Nicky Montoya, president of MediCard Philippines.

Here are some essential sunscreen facts:

SPF ratings affect sunscreen effectiveness. SPF means “Sun Protection Factor,” which refers to the sunscreen’s ability to block ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation over a period of time. Overexposure to UVB rays can cause sunburn. A sunscreen with SPF 15 can block about 94% of UVB rays while SPF 30 can block about 97% UVB. Higher SPF rating means higher UVB protection. However, SPF ratings do not make that much of a difference as they increase—SPF 50 can block about 98% of UVB, which is just faintly lower to the 98.9% UVB protection of SPF 90. No sunscreen product can also provide 100% protection from UV rays.

Sunscreens with Broad Spectrum SPF protect against UVB and UVA rays. A sunscreen with SPF may be effective in shielding the skin from UVB rays but it may not be strong enough to block UVA rays, which are linked to deeper skin damage, like skin cancer and early skin aging. Sunscreens that provide protection from both UVB and UVA rays have Broad Spectrum SPF. These products pass the FDA’s broad spectrum test, which measures the sunscreen’s magnitude of overall protection. Dermatologists recommend using sunscreens with a Broad Spectrum SPF rating of 15 or higher.

Sunscreens may contain ingredients that can irritate the skin or trigger allergies. Dermatologists discourage the use of sunscreens with para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) and benzephenones, which are linked to skin discoloration and skin cancer. Products with alcohol, fragrances and preservatives must also be avoided by people who have sensitive skin, especially toddlers and babies. Children 6 months or older are also advised to use kid-friendly sunscreens with SPF 15 or higher. 

“Water-resistant” is different from “waterproof.” Sunscreens with “waterproof” labels are misleading because all sunscreen products can only stay effective in water for up to 80 minutes. Since these products are water-resistant for a limited period of time, people need to reapply them regularly, ideally after every two hours of swimming.

Sunscreens are essential for year-round skin protection. The sun’s UV rays can damage the skin even during rainy season. Although people are not directly exposed to the sun, its UV rays can also come through the clouds. 

“Sunscreens don’t necessarily provide protection from the sun but from the UV rays that are emitted by the sun. People should make it a habit to wear sunscreens regularly to keep themselves protected from sunburn, melanoma and other skin diseases. It will also help them prevent premature skin aging,” advises Dr. Montoya.

MediCard Skin and Body offers modern aesthetic treatments for a healthy, glowing and younger looking skin. Visit its Skin and Body Clinics at The MediCard Lifestyle Center, Festival Mall and Centris. For more information, visit http://medicardphils.com



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