Shining a Light on the Damage that Daily Sun Exposure Can Cause: U-M Study Highlights Need for Better Sunscreens

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A December 4, 2013 article from the University of Michigan publication Michigan Medicine summarizing a Journal of the American Medical Association on sunscreen effectiveness in protecting human skin from sunlight damage. The authors conclude that approved ingredients in the United States perform inadequately for daily exposure to the various sunlight wavelengths and other strategies to protect our skin are needed.

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In a new paper published online in JAMA Dermatology, the researchers show that damage starts after just two daily exposures to a low amount of ultraviolet A1, or UVA1, light – which makes up most of the UV light we are exposed to throughout the day, and tanning bed light too. Very few of the ingredients in sunscreen products effectively protect against UVA1. The damaging process kept going after further daily exposures

“Premature skin aging from UV exposure has gotten a lot of attention in the last 10 years, but most researchers have focused on UVB rays, which cause sunburn,” says first author Frank Wang, M.D. “But there is very little UVB in sunlight, and most UVB exposure is at midday. During the rest of the day it’s mostly UVA, with UVA1 being the majority. UVA1 is also the main component of tanning booth light. So, we wanted to look at whether it can predispose skin to premature aging by simulating repetitive daily exposure. And we found that it can. Furthermore, the mild tanning that occurs does not seem to protect against damage from additional exposures.”

The bottom line, they say, is that the new findings suggest a need for new sunscreen ingredients that can protect against UVA1 rays. Currently, only zinc oxide and avobenzone are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as sunscreen ingredients capable of blocking UVA1. Window glass, and most clothing, also don’t necessarily filter out all UVA1.


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