Expert's Opinion

The ABCs of SPF

July 13, 2010

What to look out for when determining an appropriate sun care regiment.

By Dr. Debra Jaliman
Dermatologist and spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology

The FDA now backs up the claim that an SPF 30 is a must! This is the first year the industry recommended sun care over SPF 15.

SPF of 15 will absorb approximately 94% of the UVB rays with a SPF of 30 absorbing approximately 97% of the UVB rays. This means that by wearing a SPF of 15, one can remains in direct sunlight for two hours before beginning to sunburn. Wearing a SPF of 30 will increase this time in the sun to four hours before a sunburn begins.

Make sure your SPF is broad spectrum - protecting against UVA and UVB rays (you can still get sun damage without protecting against UVA rays). UVB rays produce the familiar sunburn. They also cause skin cancer. SPF (sun protection factor) ratings effectively rate the level of UVB protection provided by sun protection products. The UVB rays have a shorter wavelength meaning that they do not penetrate into the deep layers of the skin.

By contrast, UVA rays have a longer wavelength, penetrating deeper into the skin, and produce the aging associated with chronic sun exposure such as: skin sagging, loss of elasticity, pigment changes, deep wrinkles and dry skin. Recent studies have shown a strong link between UVA rays and the development of melanoma.

Look for SPF that has Parsol 1789, Zinc Titanium and Mexoryl, as they offer broad spectrum protection With rosacia prone skin, apply physical blockers instead of chemical, like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Zinc is great since it also acts as an anti-inflammatory.

With acne-prone/oily skin, look for sunscreens that are in the powder form and many brands now offer this option.Powder sunscreens generally consist of titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or both. These are wonderful sunscreens because they provide physical blocking of the full spectrum of the sun's rays. Unlike chemical blockers, they will not break down in sunlight, meaning that they last longer, and the full spectrum protection keeps you completely protected. Because they come in powder form, they also can be applied over makeup without ruining your look.

There are no excuses not to apply sunscreen today as options for all skin types are now available and very accessible!

Dr. Debra Jaliman is a board-certified dermatologist with a private practice in Manhattan. She is an assistant clinical professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City and a media spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology.

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