Do the SPF Math
The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) number determines the strength of a sunscreen and can range from two to greater than 50. The SPF number rates the sunscreen's ability to shield against UVB rays. The calculation reflects a comparison of the amount of time it would take to get sunburn on unprotected skin, versus sunscreen-protected skin. The initial burn rate of unprotected skin is multiplied by the SPF number. For example, by using a sunscreen with an SPF of 8 after 10 minutes in the sun, it would take 80 minutes for a burn to occur. A high SPF factor of 50 would provide 50 times more protection, or 500 minutes longer before burning occurs.
Remember, even though a higher SPF number provides better sun protection over a lower number, it will not provide 100 percent assurance against burning or skin cancer. Do not assume that a higher number will allow you to be out in the sun indefinitely. Sunscreen needs to be regularly reapplied every two hours no matter what the SPF factor. Dermatologists recommend a SPF factor of 30 or more for the best protection against premature aging, sunburn and skin cancer. They also recommend using sunscreen year round for the best protection, as sun damage is not limited just to the beach! Whenever you are outdoors, or within reach of UV rays, sun exposure will add up. Being by a reflective surface like water, sand or snow will additionally increase the power of the sun's burning rays.
UV rays consist of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths shorter than the violet end of the light spectrum and are not visible to the human eye. However, many animals including reptiles, birds, bees and other insects can see UV rays, helping them to identify the many fruits, flowers and seeds that stand out environmentally in ultraviolet wavelengths. Reindeer can also see UV rays, which help them detect food and predators in a snowy white environment. If humans could see UV wavelengths, one would have to wonder whether we would take extra care to stay out of their way!
Both UVA and UVB rays are harmful with prolonged exposure. UVA rays are ultraviolet rays comprising of over 99 percent of the radiation reaching the earth. UVB rays are ultraviolet rays comprising of less than one percent of the rays reaching earth. UVA rays account for 95 percent of our sun exposure and contribute to the aging of the skin as well as to skin cancer. UVB rays also contribute to sunburn, premature aging and skin cancer. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, ultraviolet radiation from the sun and artificial sources such as tanning beds are known to be carcinogens or cancer causing agents. Our skin will develop a suntan as the brown pigment melanin increases with exposure to the sun's rays, but as a defense against UV radiation, melanin absorbs UV rays and dissipates the energy as heat.
SPF factors refer only to a sunscreen's ability to block UVB rays, which cause sunburn. The FDA currently does not have a rating system for UVA rays. As only UVB rays are being calculated in an SPF classification, there is a real danger of having a false sense of security from a higher number. UVB rays cause sunburn, yet a burn is only an outwardly visible sign that you have been in the sun too long. UVA rays are responsible for 80 percent of the skin's aging and also factor in skin cancer. The deep penetration of UVA rays into the dermal layer of skin causes collagen and cell damage and leads to hyperpigmentation and premature aging.
The Rules of Sunscreen Have Changed
The limitations of sunscreens have led product manufacturers to begin broadening the coverage with additional ingredients that address UVA rays. Broad-spectrum UV protection has recently been created to shield against both UVA and UVB rays. To protect against UVA rays, a physical block to the sun is vital for sunscreen ingredients. Currently, the FDA approves 17 active ingredients as effective UVA blockers, including zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
New FDA rulings have recently changed sunscreen labeling standards. The claim "broad spectrum" may now only appear on sunscreens that, in addition to the UVB protection already in place, test for a minimum standard of UVA protection. Claims about protection from skin cancer and premature aging may now only be used on sunscreens providing broad spectrum protection. Sunscreens must also have an SPF of 15 or higher to claim skin cancer and premature aging protection. Sunscreens not offering broad spectrum protection must have their SPF number noted as well as indicate that only UVB protection is provided. Labels can no longer claim to be waterproof – only water resistant – and must state how long after swimming or sweating that they are still active. A predetermined time of either 40 or 80 minutes must be listed for the sunscreen's effectiveness after application and other warnings as well as ingredient details must be included in a fact box.
In a recent analysis by the Environmental Working Group, the safety and effectiveness of over 700 name brand sunscreens were rated for the first time ever in this type of study. It has been founded that there are inadequate protection levels or harmful ingredients in 85 percent of the 785 sunscreen products studied with an SPF of 15 or over. Ingredients with effective broad-spectrum UV coverage include avobenzone; cinoxate; menthyl anthranilate; octyl methoxycinnamate, also known as octinoxate; octyl salicylate, also known as octisalate; oxybenzone; sulisobenzone; titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. All of these listed ingredients are recommended by The American Academy of Dermatology, with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide also being advised for those with sensitive skin as they are all natural and free of chemicals.
Follow Your Shadow
The American Academy of Dermatology advises wearing protective clothing when possible and seeking shade between the hours of 10 in the morning and four o' clock in the afternoon, when the sun is at its strongest point of the day. More than 3.5 million skin cancers in more than two million people are diagnosed annually and melanoma incidence rates have been increasing for 30 years. Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for those aged 25 to 29. While other forms of cancer are steadily falling, melanoma continues to rise at rapid rates, with an estimated 123,590 new cases diagnosed in the U.S. in 2011.
While about 65 percent of melanoma cases can be attributed to UV radiation from the sun, tanning beds are equally as risky and perhaps even more so. Frequent tanners may get 12 times the annual UV exposure compared to that from the sun and are 75 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who do not use tanning beds. Females, aged 16 to 29 comprise of 71 percent of the tanning salon patrons. The risk of accidental sunburns in and out of tanning beds is serious, as skin cancer risks are double in those who have had five or more sunburns.
The good news is that skin cancer is preventable and very treatable when detected early. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, with a 99 percent survival rate for those detected early. Advise your clients on the importance of sun protection and urge them to have annual checkups for skin cancer screenings. Men are much less likely to wear sunscreen than women, perhaps because women are in general more attentive to their skin. However, men will account for 56 percent of all new cases of melanoma this year and 62 percent of deaths. Urge male clients to use sunscreen regularly and emphasize how outdoor activities like golfing, hiking, skiing, yard work, sports, or even driving in their cars put them at risk for prolonged sun exposure!
Protection From Head to Toe
Do not skimp with the amount of sunscreen when putting it on; let your clients know that if they are not applying enough to their skin, they will only get a portion of the SPF protection. Apply generously and often, enough for full coverage and reapplication every two hours. Sunscreen use is not limited to just warm weather; it should be used all year. UV rays can penetrate the skin in all seasons and even on overcast days. Realistically, if sunscreens are not convenient to wear, men and women are not going to use them regularly. Zinc oxide is a great sun deterrent for both UVA and UVB rays, yet often it applies too thickly and opaquely with a white residue. Offer your clients a micronized zinc oxide, which distributes the zinc without having the heavy, white effect by using nano particles. Zinc oxide has no chemical additives and repels the sun by reflection, not absorbing into the body like other chemical sunscreens. It is widely recognized as the most effective natural sunscreen available and is safe for those with sensitive skin including children
Make sure all areas of the body are adequately covered with sunscreen, especially vulnerable and often overlooked areas like the hands, ears, neck, nose, and the top and back of the head. Men and women with bald spots, thinning hair, or hair that is thinning at the part will need to apply sunscreen every two hours regularly as well. The problem is, no one wants to put sunscreen on their head; it looks greasy and it ruins their hairstyle. Those with thinning hair do not want to weigh it down even more by exposing more scalp then they have to! Wearing a hat is sometimes a solution, but not always an option, and will almost always mess up your hairstyle. So what is the solution?
Be Sun Smart
As an alternative, consider offering your clients special sunless tanning services such as airbrush tanning, or body treatments like an exfoliation followed by a self-tanner application for a healthy, sun kissed glow that is UV-free. Create a special sun protection area in your spa or skin care center where you showcase all your great brands of sunscreen including those for the hair and scalp. Be sure to show product differentiation by segmenting those formulated for the face and those for the body. Include any further sun care items for the skin or hair such as chlorine removal shampoos, self tanners, airbrush makeup or accessories like sunglasses and hats. Your sun care items should be displayed year round and not just in the summer, as UV exposure happens all year and in all types of weather.
Enjoy being outdoors while also making sun protection a habit for the body, face and scalp. Include sun protection information for your clients in all of your spa signage, graphics and communications to emphasize the importance of being sun smart year round!
Jenny Hogan is the media director at Marketing Solutions, Inc., a full-service marketing, advertising and PR agency specializing in the professional beauty business.