Critical Wavelength®
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Education is the key 
                        to protection!


Everyone is familiar with the SPF system which rates the level of UVB or sunburn protection; however, people remain unfamiliar with the dangers posed by UVA rays. The initial part of the UVA spectrum, known as short wavelength UVA rays (320-340nm) produces a tan, with the remainder of the UVA (340-400nm) producing no immediate, visable effect. Until the early 1990s, UVA rays were even thought to be harmless!

Chronic UVA exposure is known to have multiple negative effects:

  1. PHOTODERMATOSIS/PHOTOSENSITIVITY  The association between UVA exposure and increasing severity of patients conditions with photodermatosis (commonly known as sun poisoning) is well documented. In fact, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) has asked the FDA to mandate inclusion of an absolute Critical Wavelength® value on all sun protection products to help them select the best product for their patients. 
  2. SOLAR AGING  The process of solar aging involves chronic long term exposure to micro-doses of UVA light. UVA exposure produces damage over years, by inducing a multitude of tiny “scars;" in which one, etched over another, over time causes the visible wrinkle.

  3. MELANOMA  This is perhaps the most important and controversial effect of long term UVA exposure. There is now abundant evidence showing a strong link between long wavelength UVA and melanoma. 

SPF, how high is enough?

One should look for a product with a SPF 15 and above. A SPF of 15 will block approximately 94% of UVB rays; however, one must remember that SPF is a non-linear curve. Although consumers assume that an SPF increase from SPF 15 to 30 is "double the protection," in fact the UVB blockage increases only 2% to 96%.

What Critical Wavelength® should one select?

There are only three active ingredients that are FDA approved to provide long wavelength UVA protection: avobenzone, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide. 

As a general rule, avobenzone formulations will have the highest Critical Wavelengths® with very light wearable formulas. However, these formulas are often irritating if they get into people's eyes. Zinc formulations on the other hand, make some of the best sports and children's formulations as they can be made to be very non-irritating to eyes. There is not a "one product fits all" solution.

The graph below shows the difference between a zinc sports product (LUCA Critical Wavelength® 372nm) and a daily wear avobenzone daily  moisturizer (LUCA Critical Wavelength® 383nm).  The "other sunscreens" represent the limited UVA protection one receives 
when using a product that does not contain the active ingredients avobenzone, titanium, or zinc oxide. Unfortunately a sizable part of the sun protection market falls into this "other" category.  Such a product allows someone to stay out all day long without getting a suntan, all the while "cooking themselves" with UVA rays.

The take home message is to wear a product everyday. Technology has advanced such that it is possible to find a product for every occasion, wearable everyday, and with a Critical Wavelength® over 370nm. 

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