Summertime means increased sun exposure -- and choosing the right sunscreen can be difficult. Since 2007, the FDA has been reviewing sunscreen claims and preparing to implement new regulations for the language used on sunscreen labels, which may happen later this year.
New York-based dermatologist Dr. Doris Day explained what to look for when choosing a sunscreen and how to make sense of the labels.
What wording found on sunscreens will be removed after the FDA implements new regulations?
Instead of "waterproof," sunscreens will be called "water resistant."
Sunscreens will no longer say "100 percent or complete protection." The only "complete" protection from sun damage is to stay inside.
What will new sunscreen labels say?
The FDA has recognized two types of rays. UVA rays are the type that burn. That is what the SPF protects. The new information is regarding UVA rays being harmful in terms of skin cancer. We used to say UVA rays were dangerous in terms of aging the skin. We know now that UVA rays go through glass. UVB [rays] are blocked by glass. UVA rays you can get in your car or in your house. The highest SPF number on the new label will be 50-plus. The FDA does not want to discourage people from creating stronger and better sunscreens, but they won't claim it is higher than 50. There will also be an independent rating system for UVA protection.
What is necessary when choosing sunscreen?
SPF 15 or higher.Label should say UVA and UVB protection.
Should have "photostabilized" on the label.
Look for one of the following ingredients to be in the label: Helioplex, Avotriplex and Mexoryl. These provide a slightly broader spectrum and last a little longer. The Skin Cancer Foundation offers a seal of approval. Those products are listed on skincancer.org, come at all price points and most are very affordable. The American Academy of Dermatology has a seal of recomendation as well.
What do the SPF numbers mean? Is SPF 50 better than SPF 15?
Nothing matters over [SPF] 15. The claim that the higher the SPF the higher protection is not exactly true. The lab setting isn't as accurate [because] the amount of sunscreen they use is never what people actually use. ... If you are using an SPF 30, you are lucky if you get the protection of a 10. The percentage of protection between a 15, 30 or 50 is so small that it doesn't even matter.
If you want a tan, is it OK to use a lower SPF number?
If you want a tan or some color, you will still get it. People want more and more color. Many people have "tanorexia." You have to set your expectations of what "color" is. If you want a tan, use a self tanner. There are ways to get color. There are new products that have color in them; they have a self tanner and an SPF. If you really want color, the safest way to get it is through sunless tanning products.
What mistakes do people make regarding sunscreen?Using outdated sunscreen. Not using enough sunscreen. Not applying enough. Not using enough coverage.
What parts of the body are most vulnerable to sunburn because people forget to protect them with sunscreen?
Back of the neck
Top of the feet
Around your armpits
What is the most common excuse people make for not wearing sunscreen?
People say they don't use sunscreen because they need the vitamin D. In order to get an adequate amount of vitamin D, you only need 10 minutes of sun [exposure]. I think it is safer to take a supplement or to get vitamin D from your diet. If you think your level is low, ask your doctor to check your levels. The sun is not the only way to get it.
For more information about Dr. Doris Day, visit http://www.myclearskin.com.