Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

UPF Clothing – Really Protecting You From The Sun? August 20, 2012

Loyal readers to this blog know that I am sun protection obsessed.  Besides for reminding my readers to always use sunscreen I have promoted the use of clothes with built-in sun protection and laundry detergent additives that wash sun protection into your clothes (I have also used this laundry additive myself) in this blog.  But I had to rethink my promotion of these products when I read The New Times article New Breed of Products Is Said to Offer Sun Protection, but Doubts Linger back in May.  (Yes, May.  I’ve been slow to write about this issue)

Now why would I start to rethink my position on these products?  For a very simple reason – there is no oversight over their production, just over how they are advertised.  So you have to trust that the product is doing what the manufacturer says it is and being the cynical person I am I sometimes doubt that companies have the consumers best interest in mind.

The article does a good job at explaining the dilemmas surrounding these products:

…  manufacturers are upping the ante with whole new categories of chemically treated products that purport to block ultraviolet light. The products range from clothing and shoes to makeup and umbrellas. There are even sunscreen bikinis that pledge to shield those patches of skin that they actually cover.

But consumers and dermatologists have their doubts. Among those doctors who view this new breed of products as just so much marketing is Dr. Naomi Lawrence, head of procedural dermatology at Cooper University Medical Center in Camden, N.J.

“When it comes to sun protection, you really can’t beat a dark shirt with a tight weave and a good hat,” she said. “There is a lot you can do and not spend a lot of money.”

Which is not to say that many UV-protective products do not do what they promise. UV-protective clothing — once the realm of specialty retailers catering to skin cancerpatients, but now a hot seller for brands like the Gap, Izod,Uniqlo and Lands End — add protection by infusing fabric with chemicals that absorb UV rays, like titanium dioxide or Tinosorb. Sunscreen-infused laundry additives work the same way. With the infusion, summer-ready materials like cotton and linen can keep harmful rays from reaching the skin, even if the fabric is white, yellow or light blue, for example.

Because standard clothing must be densely woven or dark colored to offer advanced UV protection, these specially treated clothes are “good if you want something long-sleeved that is also lightweight,” Dr. Lawrence said.

But as sun-protective clothing has made its way into the mainstream, seemingly obvious features like sleeves have occasionally been sacrificed, defeating part of the purpose. Lesser offenses include shorts and sleeveless shirts, while items like bikinis — which claim to offer the maximum degree of sun protection — might be a bit of a stretch.

…  The Food and Drug Administration briefly regulated sun-protective clothes in the early 1990s, classifying them as medical devices. While it no longer does that, the Federal Trade Commission does monitor marketing claims about garments and sun protection. A measurement called UPF, or ultraviolet protection factor, is the standard for UV-protective clothing. Developed in 2001 by ASTM International, a product-testing agency, a UPF ranges from 1 to 50, with 50 being the most UV light that is blocked by a garment.

Despite the doubts about these clothes why are consumers still purchasing them?

While no one tracks sales of sun-protective products across categories, the market for them is clearly growing, said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst with the NPD Group, a research company.

“Coming out of the recession, consumers are looking at products with a greater level of scrutiny and greater expectations,” he said. “They want their products to do more than just one thing, not just to look good, but to travel well and to match their lifestyle and to protect them from the environment.”

So is it a good idea to invest in these types of clothes which generally are not cheap?  I think that if you spend a lot of time outdoors in a sunny climate than yes.  Clothes like these could definitely benefit people who exercise outdoors in the summer and have a tendency to both sweat off their sunscreen and/or not have the time to reapply.  Clothing with built-in sun protection could be a real help to such people.  Just make sure you buy your clothes and products for a reputable manufacturer and read consumer reviews before hand.

 

Further Reading:

Image from spagenius.com

 

Foods That Prevent Skin Cancer? July 26, 2012

My newest skin obsession is finding out how the foods we eat impact our skin both positively and negatively.  Recently I came across the following information about foods that may help prevent skin cancer.

According to Prevention magazine (August, 2012, page 26):

Supplements – including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants from berries, green tea, red wine, and dark chocolate – may help protect against skin cancer, a recent spate of studies show.  “Regularly drinking green tea or adding antioxidants in the form of vitamin E or beta-carotene may be helpful, although topical use shows greater promise,” says Andrew Weil, MD, director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.  “Compounds found in grapes (resveratrol); berries (ellagic acid); cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy, and brussel sprouts; garlic; onions; and the spice turmeric also show promise for general cancer prevention.”  But the effects are modest, Dr. Weil says.  Preliminary studies also suggest that Heliocare, an oral supplement made from South American fern plants, may boost the body’s defense against sun damage slightly, but it’s very expensive.  So don’t forget the sunblock!

And drinking caffeinated coffee may help prevent certain types of skin cancer as well:

Drinking more cups of caffeinated coffee could lower a person’s risk of developing the most common form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma, according to a recent study published in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

“Our data indicate that the more caffeinated coffee you consume, the lower your risk of developing basal cell carcinoma,” said Jiali Han, associate professor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School in Boston and Harvard School of Public Health.

Han and his colleagues conducted a prospective analysis of data from the Nurses’ Health Study, a large and long-running study to aid in the investigation of factors influencing women’s health, and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, an analogous study for men.

Of the 112,897 participants included in the analyses, 22,786 developed basal cell carcinoma during the more than 20 years of follow up in the two studies. The results revealed a decrease in the risk for basal cell carcinoma as coffee consumption increased. Similar results were seen with other caffeinated products such as tea, cola and chocolate. Caffeinated coffee also reduced risk for other serious conditions such as type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.

However, consumption of decaffeinated coffee was not associated with a decreased risk of basal cell carcinoma, the study found. Also, neither coffee consumption nor caffeine intake were associated with the two other forms of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.

Still, Han said more studies in different populations are needed before the group can make a “definite” determination on the impact of caffeine on these serious health conditions.

(Skin Inc.Study Says Caffeinated Coffee Decreases Skin Cancer Risk)

At least now I know my morning coffee is protecting my skin instead of hurting it, and I’ll continue to drink my green tea in order to help my skin.

 

Sunscreen Myths – Beware of Things You Read and Hear July 2, 2012

Filed under: sun protection — askanesthetician @ 5:00 am
Tags: , , , , ,

A few weeks ago as a patient was leaving our office she turned to tell me and the doctor I work for that Dr. Oz had recommended on his TV show that you go outside without sunscreen on for 15 minutes in order to get enough Vitamin D.  Both the doctor I work for and myself told her that we did not agree with Dr. Oz’s recommendation.  We explained that by going outside, even for 15 minutes, without sunscreen you still get too much sun exposure and expose yourself to the risk of skin cancer.  The stakes were simply too high to follow that recommendation.  If you aren’t getting enough Vitamin D take a supplement instead of going out into the sun unprotected.

Of course being the sunscreen fanatic that I am along with the fact that I see it as a personal responsibility to warn people about the dangers of skin cancer, I was very upset after hearing that Dr. Oz had made that comment on TV to millions of viewers.  I can tell you that many women take Dr. Oz’s medical advice extremely seriously and want to follow it to a T.  So I did a little online research and found the reference our patient had mentioned:

If these foods don’t sound very appealing to you, there is good news: you don’t have to eat vitamin D to make sure you’re getting your daily dose! Vitamin D is actually produced in your body when ultraviolet rays from sunlight strike your skin. The UV rays trigger synthesis of vitamin D, which then gets converted in your liver into its active form.

This means one of the best ways to get vitamin D is to spend about 10-15 minutes a day outside in the sun. Keep in mind that wearing sunscreen will prevent you from getting adequate vitamin D outdoors. In the summertime, an easy solution is skipping sunscreen on your legs for the first 15 minutes in the sun. Just make sure you apply in time to prevent any burns or damage.

If this sounds complicated (or it’s cloudy!), there’s an even easier way to get your vitamin D: many foods in the American diet are fortified with this essential nutrient. In fact, fortified foods provide the majority of vitamin D in our diets.

(From Daily Dose: Vitamin DThe Dr. Oz Show website)

I am not here to quibble about the fact that you can get all the Vitamin D that your body needs from the sun, what I am going to argue against is Dr. Oz’s advice.  Let’s be very realistic here – you’ve thought about it and today you notice it is sunny outside so you think “I’ll be out and about running errands, I won’t put sunscreen on for the first 15 minutes I am out”.  Now how many people do you know who will stop during their busy day and put on sunscreen??  I don’t know any.  People drastically underestimate the amount of damage intermittent sun exposure does to their skin.  Put your sunscreen on everyday before you leave the house.  If you are inside during the day and then leave to go out while it is still sunny put more sunscreen on all your exposed skin.  A tan may look sexy now but wrinkles and dark spots are not sexy later on.  And remember – a tan is a sign of damage to your skin no matter how fabulous you think you look right now.  One of the most common complaints any esthetician hears is about sun damage.  It is very hard to treat hyperpigmentation (one way you can gauge how hard it is to treat a specific skin issue is by the number of products on the market sold to treat it.  There is no perfect solution for hyperpigmentation hence the vast proliferation of products to erase it).  I found this comment about Vitamin D and sun exposure to be just another example of how well-meaning advice will be improperly followed and interpreted out in the real world.

Another case in point – terror over the safety of sunscreens.  The EWG has made numerous headlines over their claims that sunscreens are more harmful than helpful.  As with many controversies the cold hard truth gets lost adminsts the hype.  Renee Rouleau does a good job at explaining one controversial sunscreen ingredient in her blog post Does Sunscreen Cause Cancer?:

While the internet is an amazing resource for information, when a rumor gets out there, it spreads like crazy on the web and when people read it they may consider it to be factual.

One such skin care rumor that has swirled around on the internet for a while now is that octinoxate–the most common sunscreen ingredient in the world– causes cancer. Then the other day I was reading one of the handled bags from a recent Lululemon purchase and was shocked when I read the following printed on their bag: “Sunscreen absorbed into the skin might be worse than sunshine. Get the right amount of sunshine.” What? Did I really read this correctly on a Lululemon bag? Why is a fitness clothing company implying this claim on their cute bags that are given out in the stores? While I’m certainly okay with getting the right amount of sunshine as I do many of my own workouts outdoors, I am not okay with the comment implying that sunscreens may be worse than sunshine. This is wrong and misleading. Can we say melanoma–one of the deadliest forms of cancer??? There is so much scientific evidence that excessive sun exposure can increase your chances of skin cancer.  (Read more about melanoma here.)…

So does sunscreen cause cancer? No. This is simply not true because there is no study at all that proves octinoxate causes cancer, and without a proven scientific study, this claim simply can be not accurate and true.

Some cosmetic brands that do not use this ingredient in their sunscreens will use scare tactics to get consumers to believe that their product is safe and others are harmful. This has been the case with parabens and I have spoken publicly about this here. Instead, they use the phrase “linked to cancer” to scare the public to buy their product, instead of “proven to cause cancer”– and there is a huge difference between the two.

In some studies where octinoxate is “linked” to cancer, the ingredient has been placed in high concentrations directly onto various types of cells taken from skin or other areas of the body (liver, uterus) or was fed to rats or mice in their food. One such study, conducted by researchers at the University of Zurich in Switzerland in 2004, found evidence of endocrine disruption activity in rats fed octinoxate but did not find a link to cancer.*1 Shortly after the 2004 study was published, another research group in Australia found detectable amounts of octinoxate in the stratum corneum and epidermis layers of the skin 24 hours after applying the ingredient to intact skin, but the amount found was 5 times less than studies where octinoxate was applied directly to human keratinocytes in a Petrie dish.

Bottom line: There is no evidence or information about octinoxate causing cancer. Trust me, if there were valid, published studies about octinoxate as a cause of cancer, we would all know about it.

The Skin Cancer Foundation has long refuted the EWG’s claims that sunscreen ingredients are dangerous and are doing more harm than good.

Recent attacks on sunscreens in the media point to imperfections and potential risks, but miss the point that sunscreen continues to be one of the safest and most effective sun protection methods available.

We are concerned that the criticisms will raise unnecessary fears and cause people to stop using sunscreen, doing their skin serious harm.

In general, the criticisms have not been based on hard science. In fact, The Chair of the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Photobiology Committee, an independent panel of top experts on sun damage and sun protection, reviewed the same studies cited in the media, and found that their determination of what made a sunscreen bad or good was based on “junk science.”

(If Recent Attacks on Sunscreen Concern YouThe Skin Cancer Foundation)

In the same article The Skin Cancer Foundation goes on to refute different claims made against sunscreens such as:

• Retinyl Palmitate, a Form of Vitamin A and an Ingredient in 41 Percent of Sunscreens, Speeds up Growth of Tumors and Other Lesions When Exposed to the Sun.

An FDA study is often cited for this data, with some faulting the FDA for not releasing the study. However, the FDA is yet to release the study precisely because it has not gone through proper peer review. Thus, the criticisms are based on an unapproved 10-year-old study of mice that has never been published in any journal. To date, there is no scientific evidence that vitamin A is a carcinogen in humans. What’s more, only trace amounts of retinyl palmitate appear in sunscreens, and some evidence suggests that it is actually protective against cancer.

I think the lesson here is don’t believe everything you read or see on TV.  You’re a smart person, right?  Do some of your own research before just accepting what someone else has to say.

Further watching and reading (from my related posts):

Mary Cassatt painting Children Playing on the Beach image from wikipaintings.org

 

Adventures in Self Tanning June 28, 2012

When winter finally ends in Chicago and I start wearing shorts and skirts I am always struck by how pale my legs or arms are.  Plus I have lots of prominent veins and capillaries on my legs that I really need to have professionally taken care of sooner than later, but in the meantime I am just trying to mask some of this unattractive feature.  This summer I decided that I should give Jergens Natural Glow for the body another try since now they had come out with a version with SPF 20.  I thought – perfect I’ll get my sun protection and a little color all at once.

I don’t want to look deeply tan or even medium dark – I just want a warmth to my skin instead of looking pasty white.  Of course, I knew that my skin should be exfoliated before application and that I should rub the lotion really well into my skin in order for the color, which appears after a few days, to look natural.  After reading the directions I realized I also needed to let the lotion dry thoroughly before I could get dressed.  This was difficult for me since I am always late and in a hurry in the morning, but because I didn’t want to get stains on my clothes I sucked it up and stood around my bathroom in my underwear and bra until I felt like the lotion was dry.  The lotion has, in my opinion, a strong scent which to me smells like artificial coconuts.  It isn’t my favorite smell, but I can live with it.

When I began using Jergens about two months ago, and even though I rubbed it in very well, it did not look good.  I had orange streaks on my feet, dark patches on my knees and elbows, and my hands were ghostly white since I wash them so much the self-tanner didn’t stay on them.  I tried to exfoliate the dark patches so that they looked more normal and gave up.  I just decided that stop using the lotion and live with my pale skin since I was so self-conscious about the results.

Less than a week ago I figured that I should just use up the self-tanner instead of chucking it.  And this time – wow!  great results!  No streaks this time, no ghostly white hands, and no dark elbows and knees.  The problem is I can’t figure out what I did differently this time from the time before.  Really.  Why did I get so-so, even bad results two months ago and nice, natural looking results this past week?  I wish I knew why.

I just finished the bottle this morning, and I don’t know if I am going to buy another one.  The smell bugs me, and I am afraid that my good results now were a fluke instead of what is going to go on all the time.

Please share your self-tanning tips and tricks below.  Remember – the only type of safe tan is a fake tan!

Extra Tips and Product Recommendations:

Image from jergens.com

 

Beach and Pool Survival Guide June 21, 2012

June 21st is officially the first day of summer.  Kids are out of the school, and it is time to hit the beach or the pool (or both).

Here are some tips to make sure you that you have a sun safe and skin healthy time outside this summer:

  • Apply sunscreen before you leave the house
  • Use at least SPF 30 but 40 or 50 are even better
  • Apply a VERY generous amount of sunscreen to all exposed areas of your body.  Don’t forget your ears, backs of your hands, and feet.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours or right after swimming or excessive sweating
  • Wear a hat and sunglasses
  • Seek shade
  • Drink lots of water
  • Consider wearing clothes and bathing suits with UPF protection.  But don’t rely solely on the clothes for sun protection, use sunscreen too.
  • Do NOT burn!
If you are a parent make it a priority to not only protect your child from the sun but to also model sun safe behavior for them as well.
One other group that needs special consideration when it comes to sun protection are teens.  If someone has an idea of how to get through to teens about how to be sun safe I would love to hear it.  Though I have never had skin cancer (knock on wood) I really believe that the sun damage that I am now seeing on my face in my late 30s I developed as a teen.  I wish I had known then how to protect my skin from the sun.  Sometimes I try to convince teens (and adults) to use sunscreen by appealing to their vanity.  Hey – whatever works, right?
For more tips look at this information from The Skin Cancer Foundation:

 

 

Also – check out You Asked! Beach Bag Essentials from WebMD.

 

 

David Hockney painting image from http://rainfall8.wordpress.com/

 

Should You Avoid Spray On Sunscreens? June 14, 2012

Filed under: sun protection — askanesthetician @ 5:00 am
Tags: , , ,

I spend a lot of time thinking about sun protection.  Anyone who knows me personally or professionally knows that.  So of course when I saw the following post from The Beauty Brains I got to thinking:

Rebecca requests…On a recent trip to the beach I was unfortunate enough to sit down wind of someone applying a spray on sunscreen. I think less than half of what she sprayed actually hit her body because most of it was blown away by the breeze and landed on me!  I could feel it and even see a fine film covering my  sunglasses. I couldn’t help but wonder how in the world a spray on product can provide effective sun protection. Do the spray products use different ingredients than the lotions?

The Left Brain responds:

Formulating a spray-on sunscreen does present different challenges than creating a lotion product.

Spray-on savvy

To start with, even thin emulsions are difficult to spray because they don’t atomize well and they can clog the valve. So, most spray products are solutions of UV absorbers in ethanol. That means only alcohol soluble ingredients like Avobenzone, Homosalate, Octisalate, Octocrylene, and Oxybenzone can be used.   Physical sunblocks, like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, are not alcohol soluble so they can’t be sprayed from this type of product.  In addition, to help ensure that the sunscreen coats the skin evenly, film forming ingredients like Acrylates/Octylacrylamide Copolymer are added. These film formers helps keep prevent the alcohol solution from pooling in nooks and crannies of your skin.

Of course none of this matters if too much overspray occurs. If the spray doesn’t hit your skin it’s obviously wasted.  While they are appealing because of ease of application you may be getting less deposition than you realize, especially if you’re applying them on a windy day. Considering how important uniform sunscreen application is for the prevention of sunburn (and potentially skin cancer), I think it’s a bit risky to rely on this kind of spray application.

Perhaps that’s why sprays are not “officially” approved as sunscreens even though they are sold as such. According to an article by Stanley B Levy, MD published Medscape, as of April 11, 2012, “The FDA Final Monograph has not approved sprays as a dosage form pending further considerations and testing.”

Spray-on= $$

Furthermore, all that wasted over spray makes spray-on sunscreens potentially more expensive to use. And when you factor in the cost of ethanol (which is a more expensive  solvent than water) and the aluminum can and the valve hardware (which are more expensive than a plastic lotion bottle), you may end up paying a lot more for the convenience of not getting lotion all over your hands. I think I’ll stick with lotions.

Though I am far from a fan of the EWG this organization also urges people to avoid the use of spray sunscreens because:

Aerosol spray sunscreen packages will soon be required to display FDA-mandated warnings such as “use in a well ventilated area” and “intentional misuse… can be harmful or fatal.” These cautions highlight growing concerns that sprays pose serious inhalation risks. Spray sunscreens also make it too easy to miss a spot, leaving bare skin exposed to harmful rays.

As mentioned in the above quote from the EWG, the FDA is concerned about what people are inhaling when spray sunscreens are used:

For sunscreen spray products, the agency requested additional data to establish effectiveness and to determine whether they present a safety concern if inhaled unintentionally.  These requests arose because sprays are applied differently from other sunscreen dosage forms, such as lotions and sticks.

(From FDA Sheds Light on Sunscreens)

Bottom Line:  Spray on sunscreens are a god sent for people with children who can’t and won’t sit still long enough for you to apply the proper amount of sunscreen to their skin.  Yet even with the best intentions you still run the risk of really not getting adequate sun protection when using these sunscreens.   If you can use cream and lotion sunscreens instead.

 

 

Image from http://www.scientificamerican.com

 

Cause: Hats On For Skin Health May 28, 2012

With May, Skin Cancer Awareness Month, quickly coming to an end I wanted to highlight a cause I just found out about – Hats On For Skin Health.

This organization aims to help albinos in Tanzania, a country with an extremely high rate of albinism,  protect their very sensitive skin from skin cancer.  As their website explains:

Hats On For Skin Health is a global campaign to spotlight the deadly effects that sun rays can have on the sensitive skin of albinos. Through a worldwide effort, the program aims to raise funds to purchase hats and other sun-protective items for albinos living in Tanzania, a country in East Africa with one of the highest rates of albinism in the world.

Skin cancer in Africans with albinism.

For a variety of reasons including social stigma, lack of education, and limited job opportunities, manual labor in the hot African sun is often the only work available to albinos. Prolonged sun exposure threatens the lives of tens of thousands of albinos living in East Africa, but few understand the sun’s damaging, if not deadly, effects. 1

Rates of skin cancer among albinos in the countryside are much higher than they need to be for want of simple, inexpensive protective measures and health education. 3

Preventing sun damage is key to preventing skin cancer.

A study conducted in northern Tanzania reported that although albinos previously died between 20 and 30 years of age, today they can live considerably longer because of preventive sun protection. 4

Many factors play a role in skin cancer prevention, including education about sun avoidance, sun blocks and shade provided by protective clothing such as large-brimmed hats and clothing with long sleeves. Albinos and parents of albino children must be informed about the disease and how to prevent sun damage.4

When you donate to this organization your money goes toward the following cause:

Your Hats On For Skin Health donation will go a long way to preventing skin cancer by providing a hat and other sun-protective items to albinos in East Africa and supporting regional outreach and education efforts through the Regional Dermatology Training Center in Moshi, Tanzania.

So if you are looking for a way to help others I suggest considering donating to this cause.  What I learned on the organization’s website I found both frightening and heartbreaking.  It is great to know that a hat can make such a great difference in another person’s life.   Think about donating today.

 

 
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