Last week actor Hugh Jackman posted that after his skin-cancer scare, his ‘biopsies came back negative’. However, through it, the Wolverine star alerted everyone about sun safety. “Please remember to wear sunscreen with a high level of SPF, no matter the season,” he wrote.
While the benefits of sunscreen are well known, Jackman’s repeated messages about wearing reinstated the idea that the beauty product prevents skin-cancer.
While sunscreens were primarily designed to prevent sunburn, a study in the Skin Cancer Foundation states: ‘Regular daily use of SPF 15 sunscreen can reduce your risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) by about 40 percent, and lower your melanoma risk by 50 percent.’
Dr. Manasi Shirolikar, Consultant dermatologist says, “We have studies dating back from the late 90s to back these claims.” She refers to a study by Green A, Williams G, Neale R: Daily sunscreen application and betacarotene supplementation in prevention of basal-cell and squamous-cell carcinomas of the skin: a randomised controlled trial. Lancet 1999. ‘Cutaneous squamous-cell carcinoma, but not basal-cell carcinoma seems to be amenable to prevention through the routine use of sunscreen by adults for 4.5 years,’ the findings in the research suggests.
Dr. Bhavna Rajpal,skincare consultant, adds, “The most recent and thorough study backing up this claim is by Sander M, Sander M, Burbidge T, Beecker J, published in 2020, titled The efficacy and safety of sunscreen use for the prevention of skin cancer. The study has effectively proved how long term usage of sunscreen actually reduces the risk of squamous cell and melanoma skin cancers.” Dr. Kisalay Saurav Jha, backs the theory as he explains, “It has been observed that people with skin type 1 and 2, i.e. with low melanin content, are especially prone to sun damage to the skin which in the long run may lead to skin cancer. These skin types absolutely need a sunscreen with high SPF of 50+. In skin types 3, 4, and 5 which are primarily Hispanic, Asian, Arabs, and Indian, the chances of skin cancer are lower. However, sunscreen with SPF 25-50 is advisable for this group as well.”
So from 25-50? How does one pick the accurate SPF? “For the general public, SPF 30 is good enough. SPF 50 offers just 3-4% more protection than SPF 30 but the price is substantially higher,” Dr Agni Bose, a dermat and social media influencer suggests. He adds, “When someone is at the beach, hills, snow, or an athlete with increased sun exposure, then I would recommend a higher SPF of 50 and more.”
Dr. Gagana B Gopal, Consultant Dermatologist, Kaya Clinic, states that “SPF is only measuring the efficacy against UVB rays and not all the entire spectrum.” “We tend to think that higher SPF means higher protection but that is not entirely true. Supposedly you are using a sunscreen of SPF 15, which blocks 93% of UVB rays, while an SPF 30 blocks 97%. The moral of the story, no sunscreen is ever giving you 100% protection. So even a sunscreen with lower SPF when applied regularly at an interval of 3 hours offers adequate protection,” Gopal explains.
She bursts another myth with regard sunscreens. “There have been concerns, that widespread use of sunscreens might decrease vitamin D production. However, there is enough evidence that normal usage of sunscreen does not generally result in vitamin D insufficiency,” she elaborates.
Here are a few handy tips recommended by dermats to identify the right sunscreen:
– If you have sensitive skin and/or your work requires you to spend a lot of time outdoors, go for a gel or lotion-based sunscreen
– For oily skin, consider opting for a gel-based and non-comedogenic sunscreen
– And for dry skin, go for a cream or lotion-based sunscreen
– Consider going for a broad-spectrum sunscreen for protection against UVA and UVB
– We now have something called ‘a sunscreen with blue light filter’ for people who are exposed to increased screen time (laptop and mobiles)
– Consider buying children-specific sunscreen for your kids. Children have sensitive skin and what works beautifully for you may end up irritating their skin.
– Expensive does not necessarily mean good