Tuesday, June 2, 2009

What Ingredients Make Sunscreen Effective?

Last week MSNBC exposed a number of big sunscreen manufacturers and revealed that their sunscreen products may not be as effective as they claim. That doesn't mean you should go without sunscreen when going into the sun. Sunscreen is effective when the appropriate ingredients are present and it is re-applied every couple of hours if exposure to the sun is prolonged.

It's important to understand the difference between UVA and UVB rays when looking at a sunscreen to purchase. UVA rays can cause skin cancer, premature aging of the skin, age spots and loss of skin elasticity. UVB rays can cause skin cancer and sunburn. Therefore, you need to protect yourself from both harmful UVA and UVB rays.

Here are the ingredients (as approved by the US Food and Drug Administration) that make sunscreen effective:

Protection from UVA Rays:
  • Avobenzone
  • Ecamsule (Mexoryl SX)
  • Mexoryl XL
  • Oxybenzone and Dyoxybenzone (both also protect against UVB Rays)
  • Titanium dioxide and Micronized zinc oxide (both also protect against UVB Rays)
Protection from UVB Rays:
  • P-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), Octinoxate, Ensulizole acid, Padimate O, Trolamine Salycilate
NOTE: For full protection for both UVA and UVB, the sunscreen ingredients need to protect in wavelengths (UVA and UVB) from 290 to 400 nm (wavelength protection).

Also note that sunscreen is not 100% effective. You still limit your time in the sun to no more than a couple of hours at a time. On vacation and want to just soak up the sun? Think again. Take a break every few hours

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