Be Careful of Sunscreen Choice

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Senior-Man-With-Sunglasses-300x199.jpgSummer is a glorious time, but for those taking care of elderly individuals it does mean taking extra steps to protect sensitive skin from the harsh rays of the summer sun. It has long been recommended that all people, not just the elderly, make use of high-SPF sunscreens. However, those taking care of elderly ones should note that a new report​ questions the effectiveness of some sunscreens.

A Valuable Consumer Report

The new report comes courtesy of Consumer Reports, the publication which helps to ensure that consumers are informed about the products they buy. The magazine states that “all sunscreens should live up to the SPF claim on their labels…but for four years, (we) found that many sunscreens in our tests fall short.”

So what does that mean? Basically, this: The recommended minimum SPF for an effective sunscreen is the level of 30. This year, Consumer Reports tested 60 products that all claimed to provide an SPF level of 30 or higher. The tests they performed indicated that 28 of them (43%) did not deliver the level they claimed; 3 of those only delivered an SPF level of 15.

This is important because people often base the amount of time they are exposed to the sun on the SPF protection afforded by their chosen sunscreen. If they are anticipating a protection level of 30 and it delivers just half of that, sunburned skin will likely be an immediate consequence; long term exposure can increase the risk of skin cancer in many individuals.

Over the course of 4 years, the company has tested 104 products, and the results have been consistent.

Mineral Sunscreens​

The results are especially revealing for many so-called “natural” sunscreens - those which are mineral based. Overall, 48% of the 104 sunscreens tested failed to meet their goal. But of the solely mineral-based products, a whopping 74% failed to live up to their promised protection.

What does this mean for those taking care of elderly patients in the summer? It may mean being selective about which sunscreen is used. It also means it's important to pay careful attention; even if the sunscreen chosen seems to indicate that an hour in the sun should be fine, it may be better to reduce that time – especially on hot days – or to re-apply the sunscreen more frequently.​


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