Important news for sunbathers who don’t want to get burnt… using sunscreen on a regular basis has been shown in a new study to increase the likelihood of a damaging sunburn. How can this be?
By vigilantly applying sunscreen people are lulled into a false sense of security… thinking they are well protected from the sun when in fact they may have missed an area and exposed that skin to painful and potentially dangerous burn.
Of all the ways to protect yourself from the sun, applying sunscreen doesn’t offer the best coverage according to Ronald P. Rapini a professor and chairman of the dermatology department at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center who was not involved in the sunscreen/sunburn research.
The work on sun protection is the first to examine how people in the United Sates manage sun exposure and how well those techniques work.
The researchers looked at data on over 3,000 white adults collected as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They found that sunscreen was the most common kind of protection used, followed by staying in the shade, wearing a hat or a long sleeved shirt.
Those who said they regularly used sunscreen if they were out in the sun longer than an hour were 23% more likely to have had sunburns in the past year than those who rarely or never used these products.
The shade seekers and long sleeve wearers were 30% less likely to have had sunburns in the past year than those who didn’t use these methods. These numbers held even after the team adjusted for known burn risk factors like skin sensitivity, alcohol use, season of the year, activity level, age, gender, income and education level.
Even the researchers were surprised by the association between sunscreen and sunburn, admits to Eleni Linos, MD, DrPH, MPH a Stanford University dermatologist who took part in the study.
Rather than wearing sunscreen, the best protection from sunburn came from other less well known strategies – staying in the shade or wearing protective clothing. Still, these finding don’t mean that sunscreen doesn’t work, or that you shouldn’t continue to use it.
It may simply be that those with the fairest, most burn prone skin are also the ones using the most sunscreen. This work was intended to look for patterns, not offer evidence for cause and effect. It’s far more likely, Linos believes, that people just aren’t applying as much of the product as they should, not reapplying often enough, or missing spots and leaving these areas open to damage.
A good rule of thumb for sunscreen application?
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Strange But True: Sunscreen Users More Likely To Burn… Continued…
Use a golf ball sized blob for every body part to be exposed to the sun. Apply the product at least 30 minutes before going out, as this will give the sunscreen time to be absorbed into the skin. Reapply this same amount every 2 hours, or every 1 to 1.5 hours when in the water, exercising or if you’re using a spray formulation, as these don’t cover as well.
On the plus side, sunscreen use has been shown to reduce the risks of some forms of skin cancer. Earlier in 2011, a first of its kind study found that regular use of sunscreen by 1,621 Australian adults cut their risk of melanoma by half.
The experts believe that there is still much in the way of education that needs to happen in terms of sun protection. Shade and sleeves should be a part of your approach, along with a good quality sunscreen, properly applied.
These products have come a long way in terms of how long they last as well as improvements in broad-spectrum protection against UVB (burning) and UVA (cancer causing) rays. The new FDA rules due in 2012 will make it that much easier for consumers to choose the right product when using sunscreen to avoid getting burnt.