For Sun Protection, Stick to What Works

The FDA recently issued a warning for consumers to avoid certain dietary supplements that claim to protect against sun exposure. Amy Kassouf, M.D., explains that when it comes to protecting skin from the sun, the science is clear on what works best.

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CLEVELAND – When it comes to protecting our skin from sun damage and skin cancer, the science is clear on what works best.

However, the FDA recently issued a warning for consumers to avoid certain dietary supplements that claim to protect against sun exposure.

According to Amy Kassouf, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic, it’s important for consumers to know what has been proven to work and what has not.

“We have absolutely no scientifically proven way of internally protecting ourselves from the sun,” she said. “All of the products that the FDA is warning about that make such claims make them on very poor scientific grounds. We still have to go with the things that are proven to be scientifically effective.” 

Dr. Kassouf said one of the most effective methods of sun protection is avoiding going outdoors during the very intense mid-day sun.

We can also wear garments that have SPF protection, or use shade, sunscreens, hats, and umbrellas.

When selecting a sunscreen, Dr. Kassouf said there are two main things to look out for.

First, the SPF needs to be 30 or higher to protect against the burning UVB rays, and second the sunscreen must be broad spectrum.

Broad spectrum means that the sunscreen also covers UVA rays, which are present during any daylight exposure.

Dr. Kassouf said UVA is tricky because it can come through clouds, the glass on our car windows, and it is present all year round. So, even if we’re not getting burned, it can add to our lifetime accumulation.

Protective clothing is another great option.

“We have a lot of nice SPF clothing on the market now – they even help keep you cooler; and they can allow you to stay out and still enjoy your day, enjoy your sports, but yet not damage your skin in the long run,” said Dr. Kassouf. 

Dr. Kassouf said it’s important to protect our skin every time we go out, because sun exposure accumulates.

She said some of the sunburns that we obtained during childhood may cause breaks in the skin’s DNA, and when they are continually exposed to sun, as we get older, the DNA in those skin cells are more likely to lead to skin cancers.

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