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Sunlight-induced skin ageing and the incidence of skin cancers are increasing in many areas of the world.  Because of the tilt of the earth in relation to the sun, tropical areas receive stronger solar radiation year-round, than other areas in the world.  In non-tropical areas, solar radiation is stronger in summer than in winter because the earth's tilt puts that part of the world closer to the sun in summer. Solar radiation includes, of course, visible light.  Solar radiation also contains other wavelengths that are invisible to the human eye, such as ultraviolet (UV) light.


UV radiation at high doses increases the risk of basal cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma, solar elastosis, sunburn, spots, solar keratosis, pigmentation.  Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet A (UVA) or ultraviolet B (UVB) increases photo ageing.  UVA radiation is in the 320-400 nanometer range and UVB radiation is in the 290-320 nanometer range.  UVB is responsible for most of the redness (erythema) and tanning associated with sun exposure.


Mild sunburn is a first-degree radiation burn.  In mild sunburn, the skin is red and painful. The outer layers of the epidermis peel in 3-6 days, with itching and redness persisting up to a week or more. Extreme sunburn can also be a second-degree burn.  Third-degree sunburn is rare, and likely requires several days of exposure. An individual's response to UV radiation is dependent on skin color (or race) and other genetic factors.


The first commercial sunscreen was developed in 1928, and contained benzyl salicylate and benzyl cinnamate.  Many early products were focused on UVB, the portion of the light spectra that causes the familiar sunburn.  Today's topical medications that protect against solar radiation contain one or two types of compounds:

  • organic chemical compounds that absorb ultraviolet light
  • opaque materials that reflect light (usually metallic oxides)

Much newer micronized or micro fine metallic oxide reflecting powders provide broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB radiation.  Antioxidants are also being included in sunscreens as free-radical scavengers.

Sunscreens are rated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) based on two main factors.  The FDA evaluates sunscreens for their SPF (sun protection factor), as well as for their substantivity, or waterproofness.  An SPF of 20 indicates that it takes 20 times longer to sunburn with the sunscreen, than if you stayed in the sunlight with untreated skin. Essentially, a sunscreen buys you time in the sun without sun burning. An SPF 15 with UVA and UVB blocking action is routinely recommended for most individuals who anticipate sun exposure for longer than is required to produce a minimal erythema.


Soon new FDA categories will be implemented; 1) minimal sunburn protection (SPF 2 to 12), 2) moderate protection (SPF 12 to 30), and 3) high sunburn protection (SPF 30 or higher).


Sunscreens are recommended for most outdoor activities.  They are available in a variety of SPFs, and are also now available in hypoallergenic, water-resistant, and waterproof formulas.

Active Sunscreen Ingredients



Protection Properties

Octinoxate & Octocrylene

UVB rays

Titanium Dioxide

UVA & UVB rays


UVB rays


UVA rays

Zinc oxide

UVA , UVB rays

Tinobsorb M

UVA,  UVB rays

Cucumber, Lemon grass

Soothes skin

Vit B3 (Niacinamide)

Lightens skin

Vit E, Vit C



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