Highlights from

AAD 2021

American Academy of Dermatology Virtual Meeting Experience 2021

Virtual 23-25 April 2021

Latest news on sunscreens: updates from 2021

Summary: The importance of sunscreen has been acknowledged globally. Recent topics of discussion include the health impact of UV filters, visible-light photoprotection, and sun-related beauty products. While the use of sunscreen is important and safe, active ingredients could be absorbed systematically. Blue light from devices does not worsen melasma, and tinted sunscreen comes with added benefits apart from providing sun protection.

Dr Henry Lim (Henry Ford Health System Detroit, US) confirmed that applying SPF30+ broad coverage sunscreen is essential.1 He explained that of the 16 UV filters available in the US, only zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (category 1) are generally recognised as safe and effective. While category 2 UV filters are not used in the US, category 3 exists of 12 filters with insufficient safety data. The FDA conducted a randomised clinical trial in which 48 healthy individuals with skin type 2-4 were followed.2 Tested were four commercially available sunscreen products, covering six active ingredients. Even after a single application, all 6 active ingredients resulted in exposure of >0.5 ng/ml in the plasma and remained in the plasma for at least 3 days after application. Information on the health effect of systematic exposure to sunscreens is not available yet. In addition, data gaps remain for two specific UV filters: octinoxate and oxybenzone. These can influence thyroid hormone levels and have therefore been banned in some countries. However, current evidence is not sufficient to support the causal relationship between elevated levels of these hormones and adverse health outcomes. For those concerned about the health effect of oxybenzone or octinoxate, Dr Lim recommended using mineral sunscreen.

Another upcoming field of interest, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, is the effect of blue light on melasma. A study demonstrated that the exposure to a high-intensity computer screen -defined as 8 hours per day for 5 days at a distance of 20 cm - did not cause darkening of melasma.3 This could be explained by the fact that the intensity of blue light is 100-1,000 times less than sunlight.

Tinted sunscreen has been recognised to provide sun protection benefits but with the added benefit of covering cosmetic imperfections. The use of tinted sunscreens, which combine broad-spectrum mineral UV filters such as zinc oxide and pigmentary titanium dioxide, has increased lately. In addition to tinted sunscreens, sunless tanning has become popular recently. Afamelanotide has been approved by the FDA for subcutaneous implementation.

  1. Lim H. Sunscreens 2021. Presented at session S027: Hot Topics, American Association of Dermatologists VMX 2021, 23-25 April 2021
  2. Matta M K, Florian J et al. Effect of sunscreen application on plasma concentration of sunscreen active ingredients: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA 2020;323:256-267 [full text]
  3. Duteil L, Queille-Roussel C et al. Short-term exposure to blue light emitted by electronic devices does not worsen melasma. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2020;83:913-914 [full text]

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Article image: @ Mykola Sosiukin

The content and interpretation of these conference highlights are the views and comments of the speakers/authors.