Sun Protection

New Sunscreen Rules: Why You Should Care

June 15, 2011 at 7:34 am , by

Closeup of beautiful woman spreading sunscreen on her shoulderFinally, the gavel has dropped on the Food and Drug Administration’s new sunscreen rules. By next year, sunscreen manufacturers will have to pass a standard test to claim broad-spectrum protection.

Dermatologists across the country are rejoicing in the streets. Okay, not exactly, but they are pretty happy that the FDA has gotten around to issuing a ruling, says Ronald Moy, M.D., president of the American Academy of Dermatology. “This has been years in the making. It’s going to make it a lot easier for consumers to find a product that they can be sure is protecting them from UVA as well as UVB rays,” he says.

I know what many of you are thinking: What’s the big deal?  That’s how I felt when I started doing research for our June story about getting the most out of your sunscreen. But I learned that finding the right product and applying it correctly is a lot more complicated than I thought.

We’re all familiar with the Sun Protection Factor, or SPF, but that only accounts for protection against UVB. While UVB rays are what cause dreadful burns, the lesser-known UVA rays penetrate deeper into your skin. Experts used to think exposure to UVB alone was what caused skin cancer, but we now know that in addition to being the main cause of wrinkles, UVA rays also play a major role in the development of skin cancer.

Until now, products could claim broad-spectrum protection without any basis for it. Maybe you didn’t leave the beach the color of a tomato, but your sunscreen may not have been shielding you from the more subtle damage caused by UVA. So in other words, this is a really big deal. And organizations like The Skin Cancer Foundation, the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery and the American Academy of Dermatology are applauding the changes.

Claims like “waterproof” or “sweatproof” are also being banned from sunscreen because those terms are inaccurate and make people feel like they don’t have to reapply, says Dr. Moy. The FDA also proposed that SPF labeling be capped at 50, since there is little evidence that those super-high SPFs work any better. “You’ll never get 100 percent coverage from a sunscreen, so these changes take away the false sense of security,” says Dr. Moy.

Companies have a year to comply with the new rules, so to save your skin this summer you’ve still got to take a look at the ingredients list. Check out “Screen Test,” our guide from the June issue, to learn what to look for in your sunscreen and how to apply it for best results.

Photo copyright goodluz,

My Whiter Shade of Pale

May 25, 2011 at 11:00 am , by

White me!After a cool, rainy spring in New York City, the clouds part, the sidewalks steam and suddenly it’s hot. And sunny. My love-hate relationship with the sun kicks in and I can’t decide if I want to turn my face up and bask in it—or shield myself and run.

All winter long my black tights, leather boots and long-sleeve sweaters were like armor. But now it’s time to reveal, once again, who I really am: a pale woman of northern European descent who doesn’t tan but burns—and gets skin cancer.

When I was young I desperately wanted to be tan and sexy like my friends who rubbed on baby oil and turned a lovely shade of mahogany. Instead, I became porcine pink, which often peeled and even blistered a few times.

When I was diagnosed with my first basal-cell carcinoma in my 20s (the first of several skin cancers to come), I had to change my thinking. I thought of Scarlett O’Hara and other literary heroines who were deemed beautiful for their creamy white skin (well, mine was more freckled and blotchy, but whatever). And I started wearing high SPF sunscreen, shopping for cute hats and directing my feet to the shady side of the street.

I’ve made peace with my whiteness, although it’s still a bit of a struggle every spring to peel off the tights and strut those alabaster legs with confidence. Or to mingle among the bronzed and sleek set (that’s me in the photo, above, last Christmas, perhaps the whitest person in Florida). But hey, I love the hat!

Seriously, though—skin cancer is on the rise, especially among younger folks. So as we head into Memorial Day weekend, think about embracing your whiteness (you know who you are!) and making sunscreens and hats a habit.

Of course, people with any color of skin can (and do) get skin cancer and need protection, too. This Friday has been deemed Don’t Fry Day by the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention. Lots of other organizations, such as the Skin Cancer Foundation and even the Environmental Protection Agency, are supporting this day of awareness with useful info on how to protect yourself. And our story “Screen Test” in the June issue of LHJ has helpful advice on how to choose, and apply, a sunscreen that’ll work for you. Have a great summer—and save your skin!

Oh, and here’s Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade of Pale” from 1967–one of the best songs ever!