Friday, June 15, 2007

Truth in Sunscreen Advertising

Perhaps, I am growing increasingly irritable as I get older. I recently turned 28. So, I would still be considered young in the eyes of most people (except those who live in Utah County. It's okay - I can joke about that because I live in Utah County).

Yet, the past couple of weeks there have been a series of commercials that have caused my left eyebrow to arch and raise upward, and provoked me to verbal outbursts of immense annoyance.

First, let us begin with the sunscreen advertisements. Every one of these commercials make statements about a particular sunscreen product that either dangerously misleading or outright false. "Sunscreen that just won't quit"; "All day projection" ; "Sunscreen eliminates the signs of past sun damage and corrects past sun damage"; "Completely water proof." ALL of these statements are misleading, even false. I have to wonder how is it and why is it that these sunscreen companies can legally get a way with perpetuating such fallacious and potentially harmful statements? Why doesn't the FDA regulate sunscreens? Why doesn't the FCC require that advertisers tell the truth--completely and totally--all the time, about their product? Why aren't these companies accountable to their consumers?

Here are a fewfacts about sunscreens:

* Sunscreen, based on the mechanics of our skin, loses its protection efficacy after approximately two hours. Our skin absorbs the sunscreen, thus sunscreen must be reapplied at least every two hours. Period. No sunscreen can offer eight hours or "all day" protection against ultraviolet radiation.

* If you figure that a sun protection factor (SPF) of 20 is deflecting 95 out of every 100 UV protons from reaching your skin, than there really isn't anything more potent or effective than a SPF 30. Thusly, sunscreens labeled SPF 45 or 60 are essentially marketing ploys.

* Sunscreens, in order to provide effective broad-spectrum protection against both UV-B and UV-A rays, must have zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These two organic ingredients reflect and deflect ultraviolet rays from being absorbed by the skin. Parasol 1789 (avobenzone) and oxybenzone are not sufficient. These tend to lose potency after about 30 minutes of being exposed to ultraviolet light, whereas zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, when combined together in proper amounts in a sunscreen (at least 5% of each) provide broad-spectrum protection and do not lose their efficacy.

* Sunscreen expires after about a year. Yet, if you are using sunscreen every day, all-year-round; reapplying it every two hours, you will not have to worry about expired sunscreen.

* Any sunscreen that is less than a SPF 15 is basically worthless. If you consider that a plain white 100% T-shirt is equivalent to a SPF 6, and that you can still get a sunburn (or tan) through a shirt than a sunscreen that is less than SPF 15 is bogus. (Though, I suppose it's better than nothing at all).

* No sunscreen can be entirely water-proof or sweat-proof. YOU MUST REAPPLY SUNSCREEN! Period.

* There are sunscreens available that are fragrance-free, non-greasy, hypoallergenic, that won't sting your eyes, turn you white, or promote acne break-outs and/or other skin reactions and conditions. In fact, if you have been diagnosed with ezcema or rosacea, your dermatologist probably explained the importance of sunscreen use to you.

* Sunscreen is not suitable for babies under the age of six months. In fact, infants this young should not be directly exposed to sunlight. Yet, babies six months and older should always have ample amount of sunscreen applied -- and reapplied -- because just one blistering sunburn before age 18 can almost triple your chances of having skin cancer as an adult.

* Everyone needs to wear sunscreen - whether you are a fair-skinned woman of Irish-German decent like me, or if you have olive skin or black skin -- everyone needs to wear sunscreen. Everyone is at risk for skin cancer.

Clearly, I have strong opinions about commercials (and other advertisements) that promote myths, misconceptions, distorted versions of the truth, or even outright falsehoods about sunscreens.

Research the facts. Talk to a board certified dermatologist. Contact the American Academy of Dermatology and ask for publications that detail the unbiased scientific research that has been done on sunscreens. And to learn more about how to maximize your sunscreen efficacy, pick up a copy of ONLY SKIN DEEP? An Essential Guide to Effective Skin Cancer Programs and Resources.

In sum, be sure you and your loved ones use a quality sunscreen -- every day, year-round, even on cloudy days! It is akin to an invisible forcefield; a shield of armor against harmful, and potentially deadly, ultraviolet radiation. Skin cancer is so preventable! If you could substantially reduce your risk for having cancer, why not do it?

Always bleeding Blue Lizard and being SunSavvy,

PS: Are any of your involved in a truth in advertising campaign regarding sunscreen commercials (and ads about tanning)? If so, I would enjoy hearing your story and learning about the work you are doing. I challenge everyone, when they see commercials and other advertisements that are incorrect, to call the companies on it. Let them know your concerns. Remind them of their responsibilities. Hold them accountable to you and all consumers!

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