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Misconceptions About Conventional Sunscreen

July 4, 2013 Better Health Blog, Health & Wellness, Questions & Answers Comments Off

Most sources recommend high SPF sunscreen, but high SPF conventional sunscreen may actually be increasing your chances of skin aging and skin cancer:

Basic introduction of harmful UV rays

  1. Ultraviolet A ray (Wavelength 315-400 nanometres) – considered less harmful in the past, this UV ray can cause skin cancer via indirect DNA damage. It penetrates deeply into the skin but is not responsible for sunburn. Conventional sunscreens do not protect against this form of radiation: only broad spectrum sunscreens offer protection against UVA rays.
  2. Ultraviolet B ray (Wavelength 280-315 nanometres) – causes direct DNA damage leading to melanoma. Conventional sunscreens protect against this form of radiation.

SPF only measures the protection against UVB rays

The Sun Protection Factor, or SPF of a sunscreen is lab-measured value: for example, if you get sunburnt by “x” amount of radiation without sunscreen, SPF 30 sunscreen will protect your skin from sunburns for up to 30 times “x” amount of radiation. However, notice how SPF is only measured for sunburns: since UVA rays do not cause any sunburns, SPF is completely useless for measuring defense against UVA rays. Since conventional sunscreens offer almost no protection from UVA rays, some have actually suggested that conventional sunscreens actually increased the risk of skin cancer because it gives people the false illusion of safety against the sun.

How do I protect myself against both UVA and UVB radiation?

Look for sunscreens that offer broad-spectrum protection, and make sure that they have at least some of the following ingredients:

  • Zinc oxide
  • Avobenzone
  • Ecamsule

Some broad-spectrum sunscreens use titanium dioxide, which have been shown by studies that it’s not as effective as zinc oxide.

Summary and other tips

  • Conventional Sunscreens only provide protection against UVB rays and not UVA rays
  • UVA rays do not cause sunburns, but do cause skin aging and cancer
  • Buy broad-spectrum sunscreens with zinc oxide, avobenzone or ecamsule – others are less effective
  • The sun’s radiation varies throughout the day; you need more sunscreen the closer you are to noon hours

For more other summer health tips, visit:

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