July 25, 2019
What Lupus Patients Need to Know About Sunscreens and Sunblock
For the last 20-30 years, Americans have become wiser about sun protection. Unfortunately, the sunscreens that received FDA approval at that time did not provide full-spectrum coverage. The emphasis was on protecting against ultraviolet B (the burning rays).
For patients with lupus, protection against ultraviolet A is just as important. Sun from the A spectrum beats down on us all day, throughout the day, and it can depress the immune system. The UVA rays also harms connective tissue and elevates the risk of melanoma.
Ultraviolet A risk also does not ebb and flow as the ultraviolet B does. By mid-October in most locations, the chance of a sunburn from ultraviolet B is dropping rapidly, but the UVA dangers remain so that’s why this protection is additionally vital.
UVA radiation also penetrates glass. A study by US Food and Drug Administration scientists suggests that UVA exposure through windows may be the reason for an observed increase in melanoma skin cancer among office workers.
What You Can Do:
The first and most important “to do” item now is to check the sunscreen you own. Does it have helioplex (used in Neutrogena products) or Mexoryl 5 (found in La Roche’s Anthelios product) in it? If your sunblock says it is “broad spectrum” but lacks these ingredients, it isn’t broad-spectrum enough. Toss what you have and go to your local pharmacy and read carefully. Not even all Anthelios products have Mexoryl 5.
This advice will change as more products are coming out claiming UVA protection. Movement is underway for a separate rating system for UVA. Given the amount of damage the A rays can cause to anyone, this is something consumers should advocate for.
Most lupus patients don’t need to avoid the sun; they just need to take precautions just as everyone else should be doing.
Research based on The Lupus Book: A Guide for Patients and Their Families by Daniel J. Wallace, M.D.