Sunscreen and its application can turn into a heated, controversial topic. There is the correct dosage to use for proper application. Then there is the whole mineral versus chemical argument.
Now there is one more talking point that can be added to the list.
If you haven’t heard the debate over which is better, American or European sunscreen, listen up.
“Americans have fewer choices and notably poorer protection from ultraviolet A rays in their sunscreen options than Europeans,” according to the Environmental Working Group.
American sunscreens, the EWG article goes on to state, are not as good at preventing the more subtle skin damages produced by lower-energy UVA radiation.
UVA rays penetrate deeper in the skin than UVB and play a large part in skin aging, wrinkling and can contribute to skin cancer formation.
Sunscreens made in the US measure SPF based only on protection against ultraviolet B rays, the ones responsible for sunburn response and in some instances, may cause skin cancer. But the SPF number doesn’t say much about protection against ultraviolet A light.
In fact, many sunscreens with sun protection factor (SPF) 50 or above and labeled broad spectrum – because they protect against both UVA and UVB rays – didn’t meet the higher standards created by the European Union. Researchers who wrote on the topic for the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology said the US may need new UV filters to reach EU standards.
The fact that some US sunscreen aren’t using the best UV filters could be due to a slower approval process at the FDA, said Dr. Vlad Ratushny, MD, PhD, a dermatologist at Massachusetts Dermatology Associates.
In 2014, congress passed the Sunscreen Innovation Act, which requires the FDA to review new applications for sunscreen active ingredients within 300 days, but the law didn’t relax standards that companies must use to prove the new ingredients are both safe and effective.
“The real problem with sun protection isn’t usually whether people are wearing the best sunscreen on the market,” Ratushny said. “It’s are they using sunscreen at all; are they applying it as frequently as they should; are they applying enough of it?”
If you need advice on how to apply sunscreen, check out Healthy State’s guide here.