Saturday, August 18, 2007


Sun Block - More info and more recommended brands - BruceH Insights

Paddleboaters, kayakers, rafters & canoers need the best possible protection against UV

Guest author BruceH.

General information on Sun Block.

With new ingredients there are a variety of sun blocks on the market. The new driver is an organic blocking agent that blocks both UVA and B. This has been available in Europe and Australia for several years, but only recently in the US. Even a few months ago there were few products with octinxalate but now there are a number. The cost is dropping dramatically.

The market size for sun blocks does not support clinical trials and they are regulated as cosmetics not drugs. So the data on their efficacy is not wonderful. However, one wants an agent that is opaque to UVA and UVB (zinc oxide, titanium oxide) and/or an organic dye that absorbs both. One also needs an agent to apply these and retain then on the skin.

With opaque agents one can use the old fashioned materials that make one look like a mime or nanoparticle materials which are almost transparent.

Although data are not good there are some general principles. Any sun protection is better than none (remember hats and shirts work well). With sun block applying any is better than none, applying a lot is better than little, applying early is better than just before sun exposure, and reapplying material during the day is not a bad idea. I have tried all of the varieties below and all seem to work well.

ELTA MD Skincare Sun Block.

Most brands will have a brand that they tend to sell through a dermatologist. These are very expensive and one hopes that they work well. They advertise to dermatologists more than to the general public. This was one of the first brands available in the US. They have a no oil version which is easy on the skin but washes off. Their ‘Sport’ version is in the usual Elmer’s glue base.

Blue Lizard Sun Block.

The Australian government took seriously the ozone hole and the dramatic rise in skin cancer with a PR campaign to use sun block. They were fast to approve broad spectrum UV blockers. Blue Lizard was one of the first aussie products to get in to the US. It stays on very well in water and has both a semi transparent zinc oxide and several organic blockers that stop UVA and B. They have a nice marketing tool in being sold in a white bottle that turns blue in UV light (one can also buy UV sensitive beads from science supply houses). This is half the cost of ELTA but still very expensive.

Trader Joe’s Sun Block.

This is 10% the cost of Blue Lizard and seems to work well.

REI Sun Block.

REI sells several products that I have carried for years. The older product is the opaque mime material. They do not fool around with fancy emollients. It is nice in that you can see where you apply it and when it wipes off, it does not taste bad, and a tiny can has lasted for years crossing the occasional glacier and periodically bagging a peak. They have a new product (also light, small and water free) which seems to be the organic sun block in lanolin. With both of these you give up aesthetics for effectiveness.

(Guest author BruceH is a kayaker and mountaineer who has made a special personal study of sun blocks. In his spare time he is a biochemistry researcher and university professor.)

See also:
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock 70 SPF - Product Review.
Kayakers, Rafters and Canoers Need the Best Sunscreen Protection.
Choose a good sunscreen & use it well.

More about: Equipment & Supplies for Kayaking and Paddleboating.

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Hey BruceH, you have become a very sensitive assay system for sunblocks. Any product that works for you is probably pretty good for the rest of us.
Ever Try SolRx? They make a certified 8 hour sunscreen with Parsol 1789. Worth a try.
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