Best bets for blocking

Jun 01, 2007, 4:00am

Sunscreens continue to stream onto the shelves, offering a wide variety of options and ingredients. Knowing what's available and how they work is key to keeping patients properly informed.

Key Points

National report - With new stabilizers and a variety of formulations available, it's never been easier for patients to find an effective sunscreen that suits their needs and tastes.

A survey taken at the 65th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) indicates dermatologists most frequently recommend, in descending order, Neutrogena, Coppertone, Anthelios, Blue Lizard and SolBar sunscreens, says survey sponsor Coolibar, which manufactures sun-protective clothing.

"Generally, the top brands have excellent products," says Lawrence F. Eichenfield, M.D., professor, pediatrics and dermatology, and chief, pediatric and adolescent dermatology, Rady Children's Hospital, San Diego, and University of California, San Diego.

In pediatric dermatology, he says patients have readily accepted both Neutrogena and Aveeno sunscreens with Helioplex (avobenzone, Hallbrite TQ/2,6-diethylhexyl naphthalate, benzophenone; Johnson & Johnson) stabilizing technology, which helps to optimize ultraviolet (UV) A protection.

"Both brands appear to be very popular and offer a broad mixture of ranges of SPF protection," including several in the above-50 category, Dr. Eichenfield says.

Similarly, he says the more recently approved Mexoryl SX (ecamsule, available in Anthelios SX, LaRoche-Posay/L'Oréal), a new, photostable short UVA filter combined with avobenzone stabilizing technology, is "exciting to many of our patients," particularly older teenagers, who can afford its higher price, he adds.

"We know that avobenzone, if it is not photostabilized, photodegrades within 10 to 20 minutes of sun exposure," says Henry W. Lim, M.D., chairman and C.S. Livingood chair, department of dermatology, Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit. With photostabilization, avobenzone probably lasts at least two to three hours, he says.

What to consider

Nevertheless, Dr. Eichenfield says, rather than recommending specific products, "I counsel patients to make sure they look for products that have both UVA and UVB protection."

Furthermore, he says it's vital to make pediatric and teenage patients understand that "There's a broad set of sunscreen bases and vehicles available," including creams, lotions, sprays and spray-on foams.

"It's our sense that both children and teenagers are very particular," Dr. Eichenfield observes, "but they're inconsistent about what they're particular about. So we advise families to find sunscreens that their kids or teenagers are happy to use."

Dr. Eichenfield says that although he doesn't recommend different products for males versus females, "There may be a difference in their interest and excitement" regarding a liquid spray that rubs on easily versus a thicker ointment.

While a girl might find the latter product greasy, "A guy might think it's fine for the beach or playing water polo."

Conversely, Dr. Lim says daily moisturizing sunscreen products such as Anthelios SX appeal more to women than to men.

Dr. Lim adds that for fairer-skinned individuals who will be spending significant time in the sun, "We recommend SPF 45 to 50 broad-spectrum sunscreens," versus 15 to 30 for dark-skinned patients.

In San Diego, Dr. Eichenfield notes, "We counsel our patients to increase SPF levels as we hit our more extended sun season," as the sun's intensity - and the amount of time patients spend exposed - increase. "We advise patients who are going to have significant exposure to bump up their SPF to at least 25 or 30," he says.

Also a consideration is what Dr. Eichenfield says is a Hollywood-driven trend toward using bronzers or self-tanning sprays.