Sun Screen

Jun 21, 2011

By Trevor Shewfelt, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

I had a job in high school walking malamutes. Youve probably seen huskies. Huskies are dogs bred to pull sleds with people on them. Malamutes look like large huskies. Malamutes are bred to pull freight sleds. They are very bid and strong. My job involved going to the owners house, meeting up with another high school kid, and then wed each walked one of the malamutes. The males name was Buck and the females was Shadow. One day I got to the house and got leases on Buck and Shadow, but my walking partner was late. I got impatient, put both leashes around my waist and set off. I got to the end of the driveway when Buck saw another dog. Suddenly I was being towed rapidly down the icy street. I kept my feet under me for a while, but soon I was being pulled head long towards an unfortunate dog.

So what did I do wrong? I was getting exercise, which is good. I was earning some money, which is good. But I was impatient and didnt take the basic safety precaution of having one dog walker per dog. The same is true for sun exposure. Everyone is heading outside with the return of some nice weather. Fresh air is great for you and so is the exercise. But getting too much sun is not good. Too much sun can damage your skin. And damage to your skin from the sun can add up. Sun exposure can lead to serious problems like skin cancer.

The sun emits radiation across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, from radio waves to X-rays. The part of the spectrum we are interested in are the Ultra-violet wavelengths. There are 2 types of UV radiation we talk about with skin damage, UVA and UVB. Sun burn is most often caused by UVB. UVA & UVB can both cause premature skin aging, sunburn and skin cancer.

The Food and Drug Administration in the US is going to require changes in the labeling of sunscreens within the next year. In the US sunscreens will no longer be labeled Sunblock, and they cant claim immediate protection upon application. The FDA thinks sunblock implies too much protection. If the sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB and has an SPF of 15 or greater, it can be labeled as Broad Spectrum. The FDA also wont allow a sunscreen to claim an SPF of greater than 50 as they feel there is no evidence that numbers above 50 have any real meaning. Sunscreens wont be able to say they are water proof or sweat proof. The will only be able to say they are water resistant. The label must state how long they are water resistant for. The two labeling options will be water resistant for 40 minutes or water resistant for 80 minutes.

From the point of view of preventing skin cancer, the best thing to do would be for everyone to lock themselves into a dark closet and only come out at night. But since not all of us have comfortable walk-in closets, here are some more practical suggestions.

  • Avoid the sun when it is most intense. These are between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm.

  • Wear a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater that protects against both UVA and UVB

  • Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours when outdoors, especially after swimming or sweating heavily.

  • Wear a hat with a wide brim and long-sleeved shirt.

I got lucky with Buck and Shadow. At first, I was terrified when Buck caught the poor dog, and shook it around by the throat for a few seconds. But, Buck released the dog unharmed and it ran away home. Even though they dragged me down the street, and Buck caught the dog he was chasing, everything ended well. But you shouldnt rely on luck to protect you. A little sunscreen now before you hurry out the door into the sunshine, could prevent the malamute sized bite of skin cancer later.

FDA Sunscreen labeling rules:

Malamutes :

As always if you have any questions or concerns about these or other products, ask your pharmacist.

The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.

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