May 27, 2011

Diabetes and Sunscreens

Have you been out in the sun lately? Have you gotten your first sunburn? If you are a person with diabetes, did the sunburn make you blood glucose levels go up? Most people with diabetes have this problem of managing their blood glucose levels when they get sunburned. I did not say tanned. Tanning it totally another way of living, but becoming sunburned should not happen if you wish to manage diabetes effectively.

This brings us to the question of how best to prevent sunburns. Each year the sunscreen and sunblock creams and lotions are improving. The sun protection factor (SPF) is better and more effective. A couple of years ago, a SPF rating of 15 was considered a good product. Today the better sunscreens require a SPF rating of 30 and some are as high as SPF 100.

I do not follow the rules recommended by most dermatologists. They recommend staying out of the sun as much as possible. They worry about skin cancer and other skin problems that can happen with exposure to the sun. They want you to cover up as much as possible by wearing long-sleeved shirts, wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and stay in the shade if possible.

There are several common sense rules that need to be used to prevent sunburn. Use a good sunscreen – with a SPF of 15 and preferably higher. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going out in the sun. Apply the sunscreen liberally as most sunscreens now recommend. Reapply sunscreen frequently – at least every hour if you remain exposed to the sun. Reapply more frequently if you are swimming or perspiring a lot. If you have a skin type that burns easily, then consider using the recommendations of the dermatologists.

The SPF rating does not consider the damage caused the UVA (ultraviolet A) rays which is responsible for aging. It is therefore advised to look for and purchase a sunscreen that has a broad spectrum protection for UVA and UVB (ultraviolet B) rays.
UVB rays are the ones that cause the burning that many people suffer from.

Skin types normally are listed as six types. They range from type 1 to type 6. This means that a person with type 1 skin always burns easily, never tans, and is extremely sun-sensitive. Type 6 means a person that never burns, deeply pigmented, and has sun-insensitive skin. Read about the six different types here.

If you are planning on being outdoors and not in the shade for long periods of time, be sure to liberally apply sunscreen. Do not forget your lips. Find a good lip gloss with a SPF of at least 15 or higher and apply regularly.

One point to remember is that the sunscreens do not require FDA approval and thus may not be the best for us. Europe has the best sunscreens available. In the US manufacturers can make any health claims they desire and do not have to provide proof to any regulatory agency.   CORRECTION:  As of June 14, 2011, the FDA has issued rules for sunscreens, and please read about it on my blog here.

Here are some additional sources to read. Article 1, Article 2, and my blog from May 2010.

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