Most of the time if someone is asking about unknown nasties that may attack them and ruin their eco tour or xtreme tour…I tell them that the most dangerous thing that they will encounter today is the sunshine.
This past week the USA has finally followed Europe’s lead when it comes to sunscreen regulations. Apparently the actual new classification and labeling of sunscreens which is the same that they have in England and in Europe will not come into effect until 2009. I don’t know why it’s going to take so long to show people that their sunscreen isn’t protecting them against possible skin cancer death, but at least the new labels will come in 2009. Europe and Canada has been using it since 1993. If you live in the USA now I guess you can always just remember a few things spoken about on this blog when buying sunscreen.
For a long time it was mistakenly thought that UVB rays were the harmful rays radiated from our sun which is why the SPF classification came into being. The FDA used the SPF as a measure to show how well you were being protected against these harmful UVB rays which undoubtedly can cause skin cancer. Anyway, long after many studies proved that the other UVA rays are also dangerous and can cause skin cancer the FDA has decided that they should let the general public know. The new classification will have the SPF rating as well as the UVA rating which will be a 5 star rating system like Europe’s system. A great article on it all is: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/24/health/24sunscreen.html?ref=health
I think if you really want to be a geek (aka “smart”) you could check the chemicals that are in your sunscreen. In order to block both UVA and UVB sun rays there are certain ingredients that you should look for in your high SPF factor sunscreen keeping in mind that the SPF by itself is just blocking the UVB rays. These UVA blocking chemicals are avobenzone (also called Parsol 1789), titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or Mexoryl SX (or Tinosorb outside the U.S.).
"Dermatologists say that Mexoryl SX is the most effective UVA-blocking ingredient currently available. It has been used in Canada and Europe since 1993, but was just approved by the FDA for use in the U.S. in July 2006. However, sunscreen products containing Mexoryl SX (a trademark of L'Oreal) have been slow to enter the U.S. market. Right now, only a handful of products are available containing Mexoryl in the U.S. LaRoche-Posay Anthelios SX (*est. $30 for 3.4 ounces) is a facial moisturizer that contains Mexoryl SX. More widely available is Lancôme UV Expert 20 (*est. $35 for 3.4 ounces), a face and body lotion with Mexoryl SX. If you want the best possible protection, Lancôme UV Expert 20 an ideal mix of ingredients, but it's very expensive.
Helioplex is another advance in sun protection. Developed by Neutrogena, Helioplex boosts the UVA-blocking power of avobenzone, which otherwise begins to degrade after a couple of hours. (Mexoryl SX doesn't degrade in sunlight -- another reason why reviews say it's such a good ingredient.) There are actually two kinds of UVA rays -- short and long waves. Avobenzone protects against long-wave rays. Several ingredients, including the commonly used oxybenzone, can protect against short-wave UVA rays. Many sunscreens contain oxybenzone, but don't contain anything to protect against long-wave UVA. By including oxybenzone, companies are allowed to say their product protects against UVA, but unless it also contains avobenzone, zinc oxide, titanium dioxide or Mexoryl SX, you are not protected against long-wave UVA rays. That's why skin-care experts say you should look for "broad spectrum" UVA and UVB protection. "
I went and looked at all my sunscreens and was happy to find that they all had chemicals which blocked both types of rays. I have had quite a few skin cancers burnt off and a few cut off all of which I am sure came as a result of burns I got as a kid. Back then the sunscreens were not that strong and none were waterproof which is another thing that I think is essential when you are coming on holiday. This is even more important for kids too since they are always in the water and never reapply on their own.