US Pharm. 2016;41(7):4.
The topic of protection from the damaging effects of the summer sun is undoubtedly one of the more common subjects that come before pharmacists this time of year, especially those in community settings. As with most healthcare topics, there is a lot more to sunscreen than meets the eye, including how to navigate the morass of marketing hype and really understand the nuances of sun-protection products.
Most would assume, for example, that a sunburn protection factor (SPF) rating of 30 affords twice the protection of one rated at 15 SPF, but that is not the case. As Emily Ambizas, PharmD, explains in this month’s Consult Your Pharmacist column (page 26), the 30 SPF–rated sunscreen only blocks approximately 4% more ultra-violet B (UVB) rays than the 15 SPF–rated sunscreen (about 97% vs. 93%, respectively).
Owing to my fair complexion and some bad burns suffered as a child and young adult, I am keenly aware of the sun’s potential to cause damage. In fact, I even incorporate a daily moisturizing lotion with built-in sunscreen into my morning routine to ensure protection. I can easily understand how others with darker complexions can be complacent about the sun if they do not burn easily; it is human nature to address health concerns that are causing pain or are otherwise top of mind at a given moment.
Another key aspect of sun-protection products is whether or not they protect against ultra-violet A (UVA) rays, which do not cause sunburn but nonetheless harm us in other ways, such as causing direct cellular damage and disrupting immunologic function, not to mention the potentially deadly skin cancer, melanoma. In fact, most (95%) of the solar radiation that reaches the earth, as Dr. Ambizas writes in her column, is in the form of UVA rays.
She also writes that people often do not apply sunscreens properly, reducing their effectiveness. For example, sunscreens should be applied at least 15 minutes before exposure to the sun to allow them to bind to the skin. Sunscreen is also not applied frequently enough by most. Ideally, she writes, sunscreen should be applied every 2 hours or after swimming or perspiring heavily.
Admittedly, protection from sunburn is not the first thing that your patients think of when enjoying a day at the beach. Recently, two of my relatives’ children were mildly sunburned at a family gathering along the North Carolina coast, perhaps casualties of the distraction brought on by sun, surf, and reacquainting with relatives. Also fair complexioned, they will no doubt be more careful about the sun next time. As Dr. Ambizas writes, approximately 25% of lifetime sun exposure occurs before age 18, and this is exactly the type of relevant information that pharmacists can impart to their patients in consultation situations.
That’s where effective education comes in; U.S. Pharmacist, which just achieved the number-one Total Readers ranking in a well-recognized readership study, plays a key role here. Our peer-reviewed CE and feature articles, as well as columns such as Consult Your Pharmacist, Contemporary Compounding, Senior Care, Pharmacy Law, TrendWatch, Pharmacy Focus, and others, deliver current, high-quality clinical information. In fact, we pride ourselves in our ability to educate pharmacists who, in turn, can pass this wisdom along to their patients in both the retail and hospital settings.
Deservedly, I would like to acknowledge the many talented authors and peer reviewers and their roles in helping produce such an excellent publication as U.S. Pharmacist. Also, if any readers are interested in writing or reviewing articles for our journal, please let me know; we’re always looking for new voices and fresh pharmacy perspectives.
Gotta go now; time to reapply some sunscreen.
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