Screen Now, Don’t Pay Later
Yesterday, I talked about a new study that proves that regular sunscreen use prevents skin aging. Americans, especially American women, spend tens of billions of dollars on elaborate and expensive anti-aging cremes, lotions and other products every year. But it turns out that the most effective anti-aging therapy is ordinary sunscreen, applied faithfully every day. Today I’ll address some of the confusion surrounding the choices you’re confronted with in the sunscreen aisle at the drug store.
To begin, the above-mentioned study concluded that taking the oral supplement beta-carotene for prevention of sun damage is ineffective. Preliminary evidence suggests that regular consumption of green tea may offer some degree of photoprotection, and may even help reduce the effects of sunburn after the fact. But the most effective strategy for preventing sun-related skin damage (photoaging) involves the regular use of commercial sunscreens. Hats, shirts and even polarized sunglasses all help reduce exposure to the skin and eyes. But for the purposes of this discussion, I’ll stick to topical sunscreens.
To work as advertised they must be applied—and liberally reapplied—directly to the skin. Even so, according to the non-profit consumer watchdog organization, Environmental Working Group (EWG), only about one-quarter of all commercial sunscreens provide good protection while avoiding the use of ingredients with “serious safety concerns.” Worse, new FDA rules have actually weakened consumer protections. According to EWG, half of the sunscreens on the market in the U.S. would not meet stricter European standards for claims regarding “broad-spectrum” protection.
Tomorrow, I’ll talk more about the misleading nature of SPF numbers.
Katiyar SK. Skin photoprotection by green tea: antioxidant and immunomodulatory effects. Curr Drug Targets Immune Endocr Metabol Disord. 2003 Sep;3(3):234-42.
Monteiro-Riviere NA, Wiench K, Landsiedel R, Schulte S, Inman AO, Riviere JE. Safety evaluation of sunscreen formulations containing titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles in UVB sunburned skin: an in vitro and in vivo study. Toxicol Sci. 2011 Sep;123(1):264-80. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfr148. Epub 2011 Jun 3.
Nohynek GJ, Dufour EK. Nano-sized cosmetic formulations or solid nanoparticles in sunscreens: a risk to human health? Arch Toxicol. 2012 Jul;86(7):1063-75. doi: 10.1007/s00204-012-0831-5. Epub 2012 Mar 31.
Rhodes LE, Darby G, Massey KA, Clarke KA, Dew TP, Farrar MD, et al. Oral green tea catechin metabolites are incorporated into human skin and protect against UV radiation-induced cutaneous inflammation in association with reduced production of pro-inflammatory eicosanoid 12-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid. Br J Nutr. 2013 Jan 28:1-10. [Epub ahead of print]