New Ways to Protect Skin From Sun Damage

Technological advances allow people to defend against the sun's rays.

ByABC News via logo
May 22, 2006, 9:08 AM

May 22, 2006— -- Basking at the beach or hitting the tanning bed may be relaxing, but it can do serious damage to your skin.

More than 1 million people this year will be diagnosed with skin cancer, and the number of cases has tripled in women under 40 over the last three decades.

There are more new skin cancer cases each year than breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer combined.

There are new tools to help stay safe in the sun, including so-called "sunscreen pills."

"Basically, these pills are made up of a little beta carotene and vitamin antioxidants, and antioxidants are known to help protect the skin against the DNA damage the sun can create," said Paula Bourelly, a Maryland dermatologist. "There's nothing wrong with these pills, per se. There haven't been enough studies on their effectiveness as yet, and they don't replace sunscreen."

She said that the average adult should use about a "shot glass full" of sunscreen and reapply every two hours, even if the sunscreen manufacturer says that people only need to reapply every four hours or five hours.

Beside pills, Bourelly noted that antioxidants like green tea were also showing up in sunscreens, because they enhanced the skin's ability to protect against the sun's damaging rays.

Bourelly said that nearly 80 percent of UV rays passed through clouds and that even waterproof sunscreens could rub off and did not always protect against the sun.

"The problem is that sunscreens aren't photo-stable. Testing has established that they lose their protective effect after a few hours. Plus, the best protection is often provided by the least-stable products -- those that wear off fastest," she said.

Researchers are looking for ways to make the protection last longer. Neutrogena is now selling its Helioplex technology as part of its Ultrasheer Dry Touch sunscreen.

"Basically, the sunscreen absorbs and then transforms UV light into a harmless form of light."