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Sunscreens for Today’s Clients

By: Rachel Ametsitsi, Ada S. Polla and Anne Pouillot
Posted: January 2, 2014, from the January 2014 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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Now that you know the different classifications of sunscreens, it is important to understand how they work. Several popular buzzwords used in sunscreen marketing are starting to be regulated by the FDA, including “broad spectrum,” “waterproof,” and “water-resistant.” Nanoparticles and the term “environmental protection factor (EPF)” are also under the microscope.

Broad spectrum. The FDA requires that a sunscreen that carries the label “broad spectrum” provide protection against both UVA and UVB radiation. For a sunscreen to be effective against erythema (redness and sunburn), it must contain filters that absorb UVB radiation. UVA protection is also key because UVA is responsible for photoaging and the skin appearance of actinic keratosis, as well as some forms of skin cancer.

Waterproof or water-resistant. The term “water-resistant” describes a formulation that is not easily washed off by contact with water, usually achieved by the incorporation of silicone oils, dimethicones and/or cyclomethicones. The term “waterproof” is not recognized by the FDA.

Nanoparticles. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide in nano size (with a particle size of 100 nm or less) are often used as UV filters. When incorporated into sunscreens, these nanoparticles avoid the formation of white and shiny residue typically left on the skin that may be generated when the particles are larger in size. However, in recent years, there has been a public concern in regard to the ability of nanoparticles to penetrate into and through the skin, and potentially cause harmful effects. The European Union requires that, from 2013 onward, the use of nanoparticles in cosmetic products be explicitly declared on product packaging and listed as a part of the ingredients. In the list of ingredients, the substances will be followed by the term “nano” in brackets; for example, titanium dioxide (nano).

EPF. EPF is not a term officially recognized by the FDA; however, some manufacturers use this term to describe the photo-protective effect of some antioxidant molecules, such as green tea. In general, it should be noted that layering antioxidant products under any sunscreen product will enhance overall protection from free radicals, because the antioxidants will neutralize any that are not blocked or absorbed by the sunscreen.

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