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Science of a best-selling sunscreen explained


ArmadaSport70 Armada Sport 70, a sunscreen loaded with scientific stats on the label, is one of C.O. Bigelow’s  best-selling skin-care products. It’s great to know New Yorkers are concerned about skin cancer, but how many of us even know what terms like “critical wavelength” mean? Dermatologist-founder of VMV Hypoallergenics, Dr. Verallo-Rowell (pictured, below), who makes Armada Sport 70, parses the label of this popular sun-protection product.

WHAT IS SPF 70?
Sunscreen Protection Factor measures protection against UVB rays. They’re the short-wave rays that cause burning. A factor of 70 means you can stay in the sun without getting sunburn 70 times longer than you normally would. But this changes person to person. If you normally burn in 15 minutes, here’s your equation: 15 minutes x 70 = 17 hours in the sun without burning. [W&G: That said, the FDA requires all sunscreen labels to direct users to reapply it every two hours.]

WHAT IS PFA 10?
This stands for Protection Factor from UVA rays. Most brands just say “broad spectrum,” when they also include sunscreen ingredients like Avobenzone that protect against UVA. There’s no industry standard for measuring UVA yet, despite the damage these rays can cause. [W&G: Long wavelength UVA rays impair key skin proteins like collagen and elastin, causing premature aging, i.e., sun spots and melasma, leathery skin, and laxity.] Armada has a very high PFA, as confirmed by in vivo and in vitro testing in three different labs.
DrVR

WHAT DOES “CRITICAL WAVELENGTH 378” MEAN?
It indicates the total range of light rays from the sun that a product protects against. There are just a few companies using this rating. Armada Sport 70 protects up to 378, higher than the FDA’s recommended 370.

WHY DO WE NEED TO KNOW THE UVA: UVB RATIO?
This rating specifies how much of the product protects against UVA versus UVB light. The EU is exploring its requirement.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT SUNSCREEN THAT CAN CAUSE PIMPLES?
There are several possible causes. Chemical sunscreen ingredients absorb UV light and turn it into heat energy. This can cause sweating and inflammation for some people, resulting in tiny uniform-sized bumps or heat bubbles that are itchy and look like acne. [W&G: Physical sunscreens like zinc and titanium dioxide don’t have this side effect because they block UV rays.] Ingredients like silicone that help make sunscreen water- or sweat proof may also cause heat bubbles or true acne. Those prone to this shouldn’t use water-resistant sunscreen on their face.

ARMADA Sport 70 ($37 for 3 fl. oz. or $55 for 6 fl. oz.) at C.O. Bigelow (btwn W. 8th and W. 9th streets) or www.vmvhypoallergenics.com.