Chosing Sunscreen- Why is public confused ?

Everyone is aware of the harms of not wearing sunscreen, it can cause sun burn, photoaging and most serious skin cancer, but in the many variety of brands available do you know which one to buy and why? Researchers conducted a study and found out that this problem is quite common among people. Individuals don’t know why to pick a certain brand over another.

The survey, which included 114 people, resulted in the finding that 50% of them were not aware of how well a sunscreen protects against health problems just by looking at the products label. The survey was conducted by at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
Only half the people could answer the question about what ‘SPF’ stood for, correctly. SPF stands for sun protection factor.

According to Dr. Jennifer Stein, who is an assistant professor of dermatology at New York’s University’s Langone Medical Center (who was not a part of the study), it’s not just people who participated in the study who were unaware and had trouble reading the sunscreen labels. She went on to say that half of her patients ask her questions about sunscreen because people are confused about the variety of brands and the different kinds of protection they can get from sunscreen, and all of them want to know what to look for.

A reason behind this dilemma is also because labels have changed since 2012, before 2012 manufacturers were not required to print all the information.

Dr. Roopa Kundu explained it very simply; SPF rating is what tells you how well a product will protect you against ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. A SPF of 30 will filter 97% of UVB rays and an SPF of 50 will filter 98% of UVB rays.

Even though most of the people who participated in the study did not what SPF stood for or how it related to UVB rays, they did know that a higher SPF meant more protection from sunburn and skin cancers while lower SPF rates meant lesser protection.

The real confusion came when people were asked about UVA rays – ultra violet A- which causes photoaging and can lead to skin cancer. Only 29% knew the answer that a higher SPF rating does not mean more protection from UVA.

Dr. Kundu explain what to look for in a label if one requires complete protection from all rays. People are advised to look for broad spectrum written on the product. . Under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s current sunscreen labeling guidelines, only products that offer protection from both UVA and UVB can carry a ‘broad spectrum’ label.

In addition to sunscreen that protects you from both rays, there are other precautions one has to take to reduce the risk of harm, as stated by Kundu and Stein:

– Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours
– Limit exposure to sun
– Carry an umbrella for protection
– Cover up your skin as much as possible, with long sleeves, hat and sunglasses.


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