Trailering Magazine Archives - Featured Articles

Here Comes the Sun

(and the lotion and the clothing and the sunglasses and the claims of protection...)
If it sounds too good to be true...well, you know the rest.

Declarations that a suntan lotion is "waterproof" or provides "all day protection" or is called a "sun block" are making a group of California attorneys see red these days. And they've taken the companies that make those claims about their products to court saying it's false advertising and have filed a class action suit seeking a clearer picture of what a sun protection lotion will-and won't-do.

Like the sun on the Summer Solstice (June 21), the arguments have reached a peak level now: sunburn protection is a $455 million industry. . .and a lot of that money comes from people with boats. There is concern, however, on the part of the Skin Cancer Foundation---a national organization focused on decreasing the amount of skin cancer cases in the U.S. as well as internationally because people may stop using sun safety products altogether.

"The person sitting on a lawn chair in their yard and the person out on a boat are getting different doses of the sun," observes Dr. Martin Weinstock, professor of dermatology and community health at Brown University and chairman of the American Cancer Society's Skin Cancer Advisory Group. "The person in the yard is getting some of the sun because of nearby trees but the person on the boat is getting much more because there are no trees and the rays are reflecting up off the water. The person on the boat is going to need more protection."

Jeff Bedard, CEO of Crown Laboratories (manufacturer of Blue Lizard suncream sold at West Marine-and not a party to the class-action lawsuit) says everyone agrees the sun's ultraviolet radiation is what damages skin. Two such rays are involved: UVA rays cause the skin to wrinkle and UVB rays cause surface sunburn. But the much-ballyhooed Sun Protection Factor (SPF) on a product only protects the skin from UVB rays, despite labeling that suggests SPF is the sole measure of protection (and there is no standard for measuring UVA rays). Look for ingredients in the lotion that offer UVA protection (zinc oxide or avobenzone).

Skin reacts to sunlight by producing melanin pigment. But when the UV radiation exceeds the protective capacity of the melanin, the result is sunburn. It can occur as rapidly as 15 minutes, even with protection.

Burning Up Lowdown
"The two biggest mistakes someone makes when applying sunscreen," says Bedard, "are (1) applying too little---1 full ounce will cover an adult and (2) applying the product after going outside. Remember, sunscreens are water resistant (though not waterproof) and as a result applying the product when the skin is moist or wet (sweating) keeps it from adhering to the skin. It will be removed upon going into the water or through more sweating. Apply it to dry skin."

"We tell anyone going out in the sun to slip-slop-slap," says Weinstock. "Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat. Doing all of these will provide protection but you can't just do it once. Keep putting sunscreen on. We're all aware of what the sun can do, but we're not acting on it." The statistics back Weinstock's point: More than 62,000 cases of melanoma are diagnosed every year. If detected early, it's highly curable. People with a fair complexion need to be especially careful in the sun, though this is not to suggest olive or dark skin is immune. It isn't.

Bedard warns it isn't just swimming that wears off sunscreen: spray from both fresh and saltwater while underway does it and the wind plays a role as well. "You need a sunscreen with a high percentage of zinc oxide," Bedard advises, "and any product containing 6% or more is going to provide very good UVA protection. Blue Lizard does that. And if the wind is blowing, while underway or just sitting on the beach, that too is going to reduce the effectiveness of protection."

The concern about sunscreen labeling is based on this: despite claims to the contrary, no product offers complete protection from the sun. To take this further: the higher the sun protection factor (SPF) on the label doesn't mean one product offers more protection than one with a lower SPF. This is because SPF only measures UVB protection---it doesn't measure UVA rays that also cause sunburn. Products with high SPF (45, 55, 60) usually contain high levels of organic chemicals that have been shown to increase irritation in children. In Australia, where Blue Lizard began, SPF 30 is the limit and this is the only protection level offered by Blue Lizard here in the United States.

"In all of the research performed on sunscreens, SPF 30 is the ideal level of protection," notes Bedard. "Lower does not provide enough and higher does not provide better protection. So at the end of the day SPF 30 really provides the best protection if you are concerned about skin cancer and premature aging. An SPF 30 product absorbs roughly 97% of UV light."

In fact, one might presume SPF 30 is providing twice the protection of SPF 15. It isn't.
SPF 15 protects skin from 93% of UV rays while SPF 30 protects skin from 97% of UV rays. This is another reason why the lawsuit asks that companies refrain from labeling their products as "sun block" because to do so infers the UV rays are completely blocked which they aren't.

More Ways to be Careful Out There
It isn't just sun lotion that keeps the rays away. West Marine is selling clothing made with natural ultraviolet light protection. The long sleeve Bahama shirt is one such item with an SPF of 30:

(sku 5309877) price $39.99

Costa Del Mar Fathom Sunglasses 2000198 price ______

Anchor Shade 214785 Available in teal, red. Blue and white, this water-repellent mildew and fade-resistant polyester fabric top has a coated steel frame with a center support pole. Measuring 6' X 6', the Anchor Shade comes with a carrying case for easy transport on and off the boat. Note: -store prices: white (as pictured) and blue-- $149.99 while red and teal--- $169.99

Sun Shade Folding Canopy 7961311 Easy to operate upon initial attachment of cover to frame using hook and loop enclosures. The canopy is attached to a frame and the 10' x 10' area can easily open for immediate shelter. It also slants for customizable protection or privacy. price is $99.99 (w/screens $139.99).

Summing Up Some Sun
  • Peak Hours for Sunburn-10AM---4PM. Clouds don't hide UV rays.
  • 80% of damage to skin from sun occurs before age 18.
  • There are three types of UV (ultraviolet) Rays: UVA-responsible for premature aging and wrinkles, UVB---responsible for sunburn and suntan and UVC-which are filtered out in the earth's atmosphere and aren't absorbed by the skin.
  • Sunscreen should be applied every two hours-more often if you are swimming. And always apply on dry skin.
  • A "shot glass" (1 full ounce) is the right amount to apply on an adult body. Less than that and your skin isn't protected.
  • Use at least SPF 15 but beware of SPF's above 45 (especially for children).
  • If you are taking antibiotics, high blood pressure medicine, some tranquilizers, contraceptives or some oral diabetic medicines, the use of sunscreen lotions may be ineffective (talk to your doctor).

Today's UV Index
Skin Cancer Foundation