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    New sunscreen filters on the horizon

    A new wave of sunscreen filters is on the cusp of being approved in the United States after widespread use elsewhere. This is a promising development on the skincare front, says Henry W. Lim, president-elect of the American Academy of Dermatology.

    “We have good sunscreens, but these could potentially make them better,” says Lim, M.D., chairman and C.S. Livingood chair of the Department of Dermatology at the Henry Ford Health System. He is also senior vice president for Academic Affairs.

    Dr. Lim spoke with Dermatology Times prior to his presentation about sunscreen at the summer meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology in Boston.

    According to Dr. Lim, the Food & Drug Administration has jurisdiction over sunscreens, and it must approve the filters that are used in the products.

    In an important development, the FDA in 2012 set rules about which over-the-counter sunscreens can be labeled as “broad spectrum.” These sunscreens must protect against both ultraviolet B radiation (UVB) and ultraviolet A radiation (UVA).

    Dr. Lim says the labels are based on mandated tests that now make it easier for consumers to understand the kind of protection provided by a sunscreen.

    Other sunscreen products that are not broad spectrum — or are broad spectrum but have SPF values lower than 15 — are considered to not be proven to prevent skin cancer and early skin aging. Instead, the products are only proven to prevent sunburn.

    Dr. Lim pointed to another new development: Eight sunscreen filters have been submitted to the FDA for approval. Four are UVB filters, three are UVB/UVA filters and one is a UVA filter.

    “Most of them are widely available and used in practically all parts of the world,” he says. Another filter, octinoxate, is the most commonly used UVB filter in the world, he says, but it’s not used in the United States because it destabilizes avobenzone, the only longwave UVA filter approved for use here.

    For now, however, the FDA has not approved the products. Instead, it has asked the manufacturers for more safety data, Dr. Lim says.

    According to him, the filters will provide benefits. For one, almost all of them are photostable and will not degrade upon exposure to sunlight, unlike some sunscreen products available in the United States, he says.

    However, photostability is no excuse to avoid reapplying sunscreen, he says. Instead, reapplications are still necessary. “The main reason is because one sweats, and the sunscreen gets wiped off.”

    There’s another benefit: A wider supply of filters “will allow manufactures to use the different combinations to produce a better sunscreen,” he says, and address issues regarding the safety of filters used in the United States.

    Finally, Dr. Lim says, there’s another area of potential progress on the sunscreen front: Non-topical medications.

    Oral antioxidants could provide sunscreen-style protection, he says, and oral nicotinamide has shown promise without causing a flushing reaction like niacin.

    Disclosure: Dr. Lim is a consultant for Pierre Fabre and an investigator for Estée Lauder, Ferndale and Allergan.

    Randy Dotinga
    Randy Dotinga is a medical writer based in San Diego, Calif.

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