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What’s Important?

  1. Over the last 30 years in the United States, the incidence of melanoma has increased by 270% despite dermatologists’ consistent warnings to engage in skin-protective behaviors.

  2. Physical sunscreens are often preferred over chemical sunscreens, but physical sunscreens may not block all wavelengths of UV light and are less aesthetically appealing, as they appear white or violet on the skin.

  3. The daily use of sunscreen is not the first-line defense against the ravages of the sun and does not indemnify a person from photodamage or give one license to stay out longer because of one application. It must be used in conjunction with other skin-protective behaviors.

  4. Sunscreen is the most effective anti-aging skincare product.

What’s New?

  1. After many years of debate, the US Food and Drug Administration has not yet released a final monograph for nonprescription OTC sunscreen formulations.

What’s Coming?

  1. Hopefully new effective and environmentally safe SPF ingredients will be developed soon.

  2. More educational campaigns on the importance of daily SPF use are needed.

For several years, dermatologists have exhorted their patients to avoid or, at the very least, severely limit exposure to the sun since ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the primary cause of skin cancer, exogenous skin aging, wrinkles, and blotchy pigmentation.1 In spite of these attempts to educate the public, the incidence of skin cancer is climbing at a disturbing rate. Over the last 30 years in the United States US, the incidence of melanoma has increased by 270%, with rises in UV exposure as well as surveillance cited among several factors for the higher incidence.2,3 Alarmingly, there were 82,054 new cases of melanoma in the US in 2019, with 11,906 deaths due to this most potent and fatal of the skin cancers.4 Cosmetic patients offer a captive and interested audience that can be educated about the hazards of the sun and the need for corresponding protective behavior. Of all the skincare advice doled out to patients, this is likely the most important, because proper protection from the sun will make a great difference in the patient’s future appearance. Patients should be advised that if they do not avoid the sun and practice protective measures, they are wasting their money on cosmetic products and procedures.

With the ever-present potential for year-round solar exposure, it is always that time of year for dermatologists. That is, every patient interaction is an appropriate time for dermatologists to suggest the use of a daily broad-spectrum sunscreen and other skin-protective behavior (e.g., wearing SPF clothing, hats, as well as sunglasses, and sun avoidance between 10 AM and 4 PM) that shields the skin from the deleterious effects of solar exposure. One strategy is to remind patients that a daily SPF is the most effective anti-aging skincare product.

There are significant differences between physical (inorganic) and chemical (organic) sunscreen ingredients, though, with much greater confidence expressed by scientists ...

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