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Physicians back sunscreens despite some consumer backlash

To use sunscreen, or not to use sunscreen? Doctors say it shouldn’t be a question.

With Canadian authorities announcing an investigation into sunscreen products made by Banana Boat after over 100 consumer complaints, consumers are doubting whether sunscreen really helps at all.

Here’s a look at the heated debate.

The Huffington Post reported:

A Health Canada spokeswoman says the number of complaints about the company’s products has shot up to 139 in the past two months.

The issue received public attention in May when three mothers complained that their babies suffered burn injuries after using Banana Boat sunscreen.

Banana Boat was quick to respond to concerns about its product.

CTV News reported :

In a statement to CTV News, Banana Boat Sun Care Canada said it takes consumers’ concerns seriously and is fully co-operating with Health Canada, adding that its product cannot cause chemical burns.

“We are sympathetic to consumer concerns and want to help address these concerns as soon as we are able,” the company said.

“We want to reassure consumers that Banana Boat sunscreens fall within a neutral pH range, which means they are safe for human skin and cannot cause chemical burns. Chemical burns are sometimes mistakenly linked to personal care products or are confused with sunburns.”

Fears over toxic ingredients in sunscreen are nothing new . Critics say chemicals found in some brand name sunscreen are toxic, though no peer-reviewed research exists to support the claim. Some chemicals such as oxybenzone have been found toxic in rats in extraordinarily large doses, but no research identifies harmful results from sunscreen use in humans .

However, experts warn that nebulous fears over sunscreens are far outweighed by the threat of skin cancer from overexposure.

Time reported :

“Sunburns are bad. There’s just no way around it,” says Kerry M. Hanson, a chemist at the University of California, Riverside, who has studied sunscreens extensively and has also worked with sunscreen manufacturers. “Protecting oneself from sunburn is critical to prevent skin cancers later in life,” she says. And to protect against sunburn, Hanson says sunscreen is proved to be effective — if it’s applied properly.

The American Academy of Dermatologists is terse in its assessment:

Yes, sunscreen is safe to use . No published studies show that sunscreen is toxic to humans or hazardous to human health. Scientific studies actually support using sunscreen.

Research shows that wearing sunscreen can:

  • Prevent sunburn.
  • Reduce your risk of skin cancer and premature aging.

With summer in full swing, communicators and myth-busters are rallying to defend sunscreen.

Mayo Clinic tweeted a video:

The Verge interviewed a dermatology expert to address toxicity concerns:

Some organizations are defending sunscreen with well-researched explanations of the science behind sunscreen lotions.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Create a communications environment your doctors, nurses and other employees are excited to be a part of.

CNN featured an in-depth article that explained what type of radiation sunscreen blocks, as well as what label you should look for to get the most protection.

It wrote :

Sunlight is composed of packets of energy called photons. The visible colors we can see by eye are relatively harmless to our skin; it’s the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light photons that can cause skin damage. UV light can be broken down into two categories: UVA (in the wavelength range 320-400 nanometers) and UVB (in the wavelength range 280-320 nm).

Sunscreens employ UV filters: molecules specifically designed to help reduce the amount of UV rays that reach through the skin surface. A film of these molecules forms a protective barrier either absorbing (chemical filters) or reflecting (physical blockers) UV photons before they can be absorbed by our DNA and other reactive molecules deeper in the skin.

To get high SPF values, multiple UVB UV filters are combined into a formulation based upon safety standards set by the FDA . However, the SPF doesn’t account for UVA protection. For a sunscreen to make a claim as having UVA and UVB protection and be labeled “Broad Spectrum,” it must pass FDA’s Broad Spectrum Test , where the sunscreen is hit with a large dose of UVB and UVA light before its effectiveness is tested.

Some communicators are more succinct. Michigan Medical made an easy list of summer skin care tips.

It listed :

• No matter what sunscreen you use, some radiation always gets through to your skin—so using sunscreen alone isn’t enough.

• When possible, avoid peak sun exposure (between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.).

• If you do go out, seek shade and wear protective clothing, including a hat with a brim and sunglasses.

• It’s wise to double up on protection by applying sunscreen as well. Don’t forget to protect ears, noses, lips, and the tops of feet.

• Hardly anyone applies enough sunscreen. It takes about a shot glass worth of sunscreen (one ounce) to cover the exposed areas of the body. Slather it on!

Others find that a local angle works for their audience. Orem Community Hospital in Utah spoke to the unique dangers of their mountain climate:

Some communicators made instructional videos for applying sunscreen to children.

Baptist Health shared an infographic that highlights danger zones that are often missed when applying sunscreen.

5 Spots for Sunscreen

Communicators, how are you addressing fears about skin care products? What tactics do you find work when addressing misperceptions? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section.