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You are here: Home > Know Your Skin > Press Room > The Real And Lasting Dangers Of The Improper Use Of Sunscreens

June 2007 - Vol VIII Issue- No. 6


The Real And Lasting Dangers Of The Improper Use Of Sunscreens

By:  Terry Breese

When NASA asked our company, the Solar Protective Factory (SPF), to submit samples of our Ultraviolet (UVA & UVB) blocking fabrics for testing in 1997 we were shocked that they had even heard of us and our efforts to develop sun protective fabrics.  We began providing fabric to NASA to outfit children with extreme UV allergies/reactions with sun-protective suits. With NASA's cooling technology and our fabric hundreds of children were able to play outside in the daylight for the first time.  We have been thrilled to help.

However, we have watched with alarm as the skin cancer rate continues to climb in the U.S.  We knew more people were using sunscreen than ever before so why the increase?



Over the past ten+ years we have watched the sunscreen industry slide into, in our opinion, false and misleading labeling and advertising.  We complained to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) that the topical anesthetics that were being added made people feel like they could be in the sun longer because they didn't feel the burn.

Then they added anti-inflammatory agents so you wouldn't see the burn as readily.  We told the American Cancer Society (ACS) that this was creating a false sense of safety in the sun while adults and, especially, children were getting an ever-increasing dose of UVA and UVB. 

The fact that sunscreens (mostly) don't work in the water and need constant reapplication fell on deaf ears. (The number of skin cancer cases is dramatically increasing every year and the age of onset is getting younger and younger.)

The Real And Lasting Dangers Of The Improper Use Of Sunscreens

My partner in SPF and I have worked with the FDA, FTC, CPSC and spent more than ten years working with the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) to develop testing protocol and standards for UV protective fabric and apparel.  During this time we have attended many AAD and ACS events.  Most of these events were subsidized by large pharmaceutical companies, especially sunscreen manufacturers.

It was clear that the AAD and ACS (along with the Skin Cancer Foundation) were not interested in addressing any of our concerns about their major contributors.  We were frustrated that no one was holding the sunscreen companies accountable for creating a false sense of safety for users of their sunscreen lotions. We found ourselves at odds with much of the medical community and most of the major pharmaceutical companies.
Last year, unbeknownst to us, a major law firm filed a class action suit against the major sunscreen companies who they alleged were engaging in false and misleading labeling and advertising. (We even found that our Honorable Supreme Court Chief Justice, John G. Roberts, lobbied the FDA in 2000 and 2001 on behalf of the Cosmetics Association regarding sunscreen labeling.)

Woohoo!  We thought something was going to be done to inform the public the truth about the efficacy of most sunscreens.  We don't want to give the impression that all sunscreens are bad or inadequate.  There are a few that provide excellent protection, but to be effective they must be used very judiciously.

The Real And Lasting Dangers Of The Improper Use Of Sunscreens

The law firm failed to get an injunction in December, 2006 to force the sunscreen companies to be truthful in their labeling and advertising.  While the attorneys continue their battle we feel it's very important to alert people to very real and lasting dangers of  the improper use of sunscreens.  We still actively support the use of sunscreen but feel people should be told of the consequences of over-reliance on them.  We even sell sunscreen on our website but they must meet our standards of protection. (Hint: zinc oxide + nanotechnology = real protection)

Yes, we do have an agenda of our own that is to promote the use of sun protective clothing.  We test all of our products to meet the American ASTM standards and have them certified by an independent laboratory, International UV Testing Laboratory.  It is located at Auburn University in Alabama.

Another "get out in the sun" season is fast approaching and millions of people will be relying on sunscreens for protection.  We wish they could be told how to practice "safe sun" for themselves and, especially, their children.  The correct application of an effective sunscreen, along with UV protective clothing and eyewear will go a long way toward reducing the skin cancer risk we are all facing.  I have enclosed some of information I have about this subject (I know of a few scientists who are not funded by the pharmaceutical companies).

Aurora, CO 80016
United States
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