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Are Sunscreens Safe? Yes. Here’s Why

Some of you might remember the “good old days” of summer, hanging out by the pool, playing in the backyard or going to the beach. Sunscreen was an afterthought, and if you happened to be a child that tanned well, your mom didn’t even have to worry about sunscreen at all.

Well, those days are long gone, thankfully, because we know so much more about ultraviolet rays, SPF, and the effects they can have on our skin and our health.  May is National Melanoma Awareness Month, and we at Baby Pibu™ want to take this opportunity to educate and inform moms on how to protect yourself and your children.

First of all, why do you need to use a sunscreen?  Let’s discuss the effects the sun can have. You’ve heard about UVA and UVB rays, but do you know what they are and what they do?  These are basically ultraviolet radiation – something we don’t want in our bodies. UVA rays are the longer ones that penetrate deeper and are responsible for skin aging. UVB rays are shorter and cause the actual sunburn and  can further skin damage. More importantly, ultraviolet radiation is known to be carcinogenic and found to cause specific DNA damage that can lead to the risk of skin cancer development. About 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers and about 65% of melanoma skin cancers are associated with ultraviolet radiation.  Many scientific studies, including a recent study involving 1,600 adults showed that melanoma risk could be reduced by 50%, just by applying sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.  Additionally, ultraviolet radiation is an immunosuppressant which is counterproductive to our health.  After all, you need a strong, healthy immune system to fight off cancers and other diseases.  So, UV rays are not only carcinogenic but reduce our bodies’ abilities to fight cancer.

Enter in sunscreens.  These are products that have a combination of active ingredients which offer UVA and/or UVB protection. You may notice multiple active ingredients listed in sunscreens. Different chemicals allow for UVA coverage while other chemicals allow for UVB coverage. Having a combination of these ingredients usually allows for the sunscreen to provide broader UV coverage which is good, and the ingredients also balance one another to make each other more stable and thus more effective.  Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are physical blockers that provide for both broad UVA and UVB protection.

Now, that we’ve detailed the differences between UVA, UVB and broad spectrum, what’s the story on SPF, or Sun Protection Factor?  SPF measures the ability of a sunscreen to protect from UVB rays. An SPF of 15 means that sunscreen protects you from burning 15 times longer. For example, if you burn in 10 minutes, that sunscreen prevents you from burning or reddening for 2.5 hours.

Moving on, let’s discuss the FDA regulations and claims regarding sunscreens, as there has been conflicting information over the years.  In 2012, the FDA issued new regulations regarding sunscreen. Sunscreens that meet FDA standards for UVA and UVB protection may be labeled “broad spectrum.” Therefore, it is important to look for a sunscreen that not only notates the SPF but also says broad spectrum. The FDA also noted that broad spectrum SPF 15 sunscreens could state that “If used as directed with other sun protection measures, this product reduces the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging, as well as helps prevent sunburn.” This was the first time such a claim could be made by a sunscreen.

In the last two years, there have been claims that sunscreens may be unsafe. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) and the Skin Cancer Foundation do not support these claims. There were health concerns regarding oxybenzone, which has been FDA approved since 1978. Today there is no significant data supporting the claim that oxybenzone causes health concerns or hormonal problems, and it is safe to use on children over six months old. Retinyl palmitate was another ingredient that received negative attention. It is an ingredient added into products not for UV protection but for anti-aging and antioxidant protection. Again, there is no data to support that it causes skin cancer.

Another term that you may have heard related to sunscreen is nanoparticle technology.  There is some recent concern regarding nanoparticle technology, and whether or not these nanoparticles – particles in the size of 15-100 nm – can pass through healthy human skin. Right now, the consensus is no, but this is still being debated by scientists. There is valid concern if these nanoparticles are inhaled. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide can be in the form of nanoparticles, and that’s where the debate of nanoparticles in sunscreen arises.

Baby Pibu™ chose not to use nanoparticle technology; rather Baby Pibu™ sunscreen contains micronized zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Micronized particles are much larger than nanoparticles and cannot be absorbed through the skin. We are also proud to say that Baby Pibu’s™ Sunscreen SPF 30+ has UVA and UVB Broad Spectrum protection, it is PABA-free and chemical-free, and is recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation.

In honor of Melanoma Awareness Month, Baby Pibu™ is offering our sunscreen at a 10% discount. (Enter promo code PIBUSUN upon check out to receive the discounted rate.)

UVA/UVB, SPF, nanoparticles, oh my – a lot of information to digest, but nothing could be more important for you and your baby. Get familiar and comfortable with the facts and bottom line: use this information as a reminder to use sunscreen, especially during these hazy, lazy days of summer.  It’s one of the best things you can do for your child.

— The Baby Pibu Team

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