Science Saturday: Super Sunscreens and the Newest Rating Scales (But they still don't exactly have a splash proof rating!)

Swimmers get ready for Rio Olympics! Or at least get ready for your best enactment of Rio, whether it be beach, waves, pools or hot tubs. And getting ready means getting the best sun screen on the market! Especially if you are in the pool and without the hat! And here are a few hints as to the labeling and what you may (or may not) be protected against. In the past you've probably just turned to the SPF rating, and that is critically important as it is the rating for UVB rays responsible for the sun"B"urn. But 95% of the solar light is actually UVA. The SPF actually stands for Solar Protection Factor. Roughly that is a ratio of how much less inflamed or reddened protected skin will be verses how much unprotected skin will redden if exposed to sun. We now have a scale that specifically looks at the aging process of developing pigment from UVA, that is known as the "PPD" effect of persistent pigment darkening. And now there is  the scale of PFA...the protection factor of UVA. As a general label sunscreens are called 'broad spectrum' if they cover against wide range of UVA wavelengths and cover it well as noted by how much waves are either absorbed or repelled. In the past you used to see various terms describing the performance of a sunscreen in the water. Now days you will see terms like water resistant to 40 or to 80 minutes. But sunscreen really doesn't come with a rating that will differentiate the water resistant properties when splashing around with the kids vs pounding out yardage. so just listen to your skin and be sure to apply regularly the longest water resistance is 80 minutes, even shy of the recommendation to reapplie every two hours. But as we know, not too many swim practices in the Rio bound set halt at 80 minutes, so coaches, let the kids reapply! Now there is a new system in Japan, which looks at the PD or pigment darkening, and gives it a PF-A rating, or PA for short, with + signs. You can get up to 8 +s for the highest ratings, but the only product that has good PA protection in the USA is Total Defense + Recovery by Skin Medica which has a PA ++++ rating, which is the best in the USA. And when you sun screen look for products with other benefits so that the heat, wind, and chlorine don't dry your skin unnecessarily either!


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