Springer Nature is making Coronavirus research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Sunscreens: An Update


Sunscreens have been widely used by the general public for their photoprotective properties, including prevention of photocarcinogenesis and photoaging and management of photodermatoses. It is important to emphasize to consumers the necessity of broad-spectrum protection, with coverage of both ultraviolet A (320–400 nm) and ultraviolet B (290–320 nm) radiation. This review discusses the benefits of sunscreen, different ultraviolet filters, sunscreen regulations and controversies, the importance of broad-spectrum protection, issues of photostability and formulation, and patient education and compliance.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. 1.

    Osterwalder U, Herzog B. Chemistry and properties of organic and inorganic UV filters. In: Lim HW, Draelos ZD, editors. Clinical guide to sunscreens and photoprotection. New York: Informa Healthcare USA; 2009. p. 11–38.

  2. 2.

    Marrot L, Meunier JR. Skin DNA photodamage and its biological consequences. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2008;58(5):S139–48.

  3. 3.

    American Cancer Society. Cancer facts and figures. Atlanta: ACS; 2016. p. 1–72.

  4. 4.

    Green AC, Williams GM, Logan V, et al. Reduced melanoma after regular sunscreen use: randomized trial follow-up. J Clin Oncol. 2011;29(3):257–63.

  5. 5.

    van der Pols JC, Williams GM, Pandeya N, et al. Prolonged prevention of squamous cell carcinoma of the skin by regular sunscreen use. Cancer Epidemiol Biomark Prev. 2006;15(12):2546–8.

  6. 6.

    Hughes MC, Williams GM, Baker P, Green AC. Sunscreen and prevention of skin aging: a randomized trial. Ann Intern Med. 2013;158(11):781–90.

  7. 7.

    Seité S, Fourtanier AM. The benefit of daily photoprotection. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2008;58(5):160–6.

  8. 8.

    Moyal DD, Fourtanier AM. Broad-spectrum sunscreens provide better protection from solar ultraviolet-simulated radiation and natural sunlight-induced immunosuppression in human beings. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2008;58(5 Suppl 2):S149–54.

  9. 9.

    Kuhn A, Gensch K, Haust M, et al. Photoprotective effects of a broad-spectrum sunscreen in ultraviolet-induced cutaneous lupus erythematosus: a randomized, vehicle-controlled, double-blind study. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2011;64(1):37–48.

  10. 10.

    Lodén M, Beitner H, Gonzalez H, et al. Sunscreen use: controversies, challenges and regulatory aspects. Br J Dermatol. 2011;165(2):255–62.

  11. 11.

    Jansen R, Osterwalder U, Wang SQ, et al. Photoprotection part II. Sunscreen: development, efficacy, and controversies. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2013;69(6):867.e1–14.

  12. 12.

    DeLeo VA. Sunscreens. In: Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Schaffer JV, editors. Dermatology. Philadelphia: Elsevier Saunders; 2012.

  13. 13.

    Forestier S. Rationale for sunscreen development. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2008;58(5 Suppl 2):S133–8.

  14. 14.

    Tuchinda C, Lim HW, Osterwalder U, Rougier A. Novel emerging sunscreen technologies. Dermatol Clin. 2006;24(1):105–17.

  15. 15.

    Cole C, Shyr T, Ou-Yang H. Metal oxide sunscreens protect skin by absorption, not by reflection or scattering. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 2016;32(1):5–10.

  16. 16.

    Nash J, Tanner P. Are European sunscreen products superior? A market evaluation. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2007;56(2 Suppl 2):AB166.

  17. 17.

    Ahmed FK. Worldwide regulation of UV filters: current status and future trends. In: Lim HW, Draelos ZD, editors. Clinical guide to sunscreens and photoprotection. New York: Informa Healthcare USA; 2009. p. 65–81.

  18. 18.

    Whitfield, Ed. H.R.4250 - 113th Congress (2013-2014): Sunscreen Innovation Act. 2014. Accessed 14 May 2017.

  19. 19.

    Diffey B. New sunscreens and the precautionary principle. JAMA Dermatol. 2016;152(5):511–2.

  20. 20.

    Wang SQ, Xu H, Stanfield JW, et al. Comparison of ultraviolet A light protection standards in the United States and European Union through in vitro measurements of commercially available sunscreens. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2017. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2017.01.017.

  21. 21.

    Osterwalder U, Lim HW. Novel developments in photoprotection: part I. In: Lim HW, Hönigsmann H, Hawk JLM, editors. Photodermatology. New York: Informa Healthcare USA; 2007. p. 279–98.

  22. 22.

    Wang SQ, Burnett ME, Lim HW. Safety of oxybenzone: putting numbers into perspective. Arch Dermatol. 2011;147:865–6.

  23. 23.

    Downs CA, Kramarsky-Winter E, Segal R, et al. Toxicopathological effects of the sunscreen UV filter, oxybenzone (benzophenone-3), on coral planulae and cultured primary cells and its environmental contamination in Hawaii and the US Virgin Islands. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 2016;70(2):265–88.

  24. 24.

    US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. National Ocean Service. What is coral bleaching? Accessed 15 March 2010.

  25. 25.

    Herzog SM, Lim HW, Williams MS, et al. Sun protection factor communication of sunscreen effectiveness: a web-based study of perception of effectiveness by dermatologists. JAMA Dermatol. 2017;153(3):348–50.

  26. 26.

    Rougier A, Seite S, Lim HW. Novel developments in photoprotection: part II. In: Lim HW, Hönigsmann H, Hawk JLM, editors. Photodermatology. New York: Informa Healthcare USA; 2007. p. 297–310.

  27. 27.

    Wang SQ, Lim HW. Current status of the sunscreen regulation in the United States: 2011 Food and Drug Administration’s final rule on labeling and effectiveness testing. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2011;65(4):863–9.

  28. 28.

    Sambandan DR, Ratner D. Sunscreens: an overview and update. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2011;64(4):748–58.

  29. 29.

    Cole C, Appa Y, Ou-Yang H. A broad spectrum high-SPF photostable sunscreen with a high UVA-PF can protect against cellular damage at high UV exposure doses. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 2014;30(4):212–9.

  30. 30.

    Zastrow L, Lademann J. Light—instead of UV protection: new requirements for skin cancer prevention. Anticancer Res. 2016;36(3):1389–93.

  31. 31.

    Mahmoud BH, Ruvolo E, Hexsel CL, Liu Y, Owen MR, Kollias N, Lim HW, Hamzavi IH. Impact of long-wavelength UVA and visible light on melanocompetent skin. J Investig Dermatol. 2010;130(8):2092–7.

  32. 32.

    Liebel F, Kaur S, Ruvolo E, et al. Irradiation of skin with visible light induces reactive oxygen species and matrix-degrading enzymes. J Invest Dermatol. 2012;132(7):1901–7.

  33. 33.

    Grether-Beck S, Marini A, Jaenicke T, Krutmann J. Effective photoprotection of human skin against infrared A radiation by topically applied antioxidants: results from a vehicle controlled, double-blind, randomized study. Photochem Photobiol. 2015;91(1):248–50.

  34. 34.

    Jung GW, Ting PT, Salopek TG. Stability of sunscreens and sunblocks following exposure to extreme temperatures. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2012;66(6):1007–9.

  35. 35.

    American Academy of Dermatology. How to select a sunscreen. Accessed 8 Jan 2017.

  36. 36.

    Isedeh P, Osterwalder U, Lim HW. Teaspoon rule revisited: proper amount of sunscreen application. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 2013;29(1):55–6.

  37. 37.

    Faurschou A, Wulf HC. The relation between sun protection factor and amount of sunscreen applied in vivo. Br J Dermatol. 2007;156(4):716–9.

  38. 38.

    Ou-Yang H, Stanfield J, Cole C, et al. High-SPF sunscreens (SPF ≥70) may provide ultraviolet protection above minimal recommended levels by adequately compensating for lower sunscreen user application amounts. J Amer Acad Dermatol. 2012;67(6):1220–7.

  39. 39.

    Akamine KL, Gustafson CJ, Davis SA, et al. Trends in sunscreen recommendation among US physicians. JAMA Dermatol. 2014;150(1):51–5.

  40. 40.

    Xu S, Kwa M, Agarwal A, et al. Sunscreen product performance and other determinants of consumer preferences. JAMA Dermatol. 2016;152(8):920–7.

  41. 41.

    Armstrong AW, Watson AJ, Makredes M, et al. Text-message reminders to improve sunscreen use: a randomized, controlled trial using electronic monitoring. Arch Dermatol. 2009;145(11):1230–6.

  42. 42.

    Rosen C, Naylor M. Public education in photoprotection. In: Lim HW, Hönigsmann H, Hawk JLM, editors. Photodermatology. New York: Informa Healthcare USA; 2007. p. 311–8.

  43. 43.

    Wang SQ, Halpern AC. Public education in photoprotection. In: Lim HW, Draelos ZD, editors. Clinical guide to sunscreens and photoprotection. New York: Informa Healthcare USA; 2009. p. 281–92.

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Henry W. Lim.

Ethics declarations

Conflicts of interest

Henry W. Lim has received research grants from Clinuvel, Estée Lauder, Ferndale, and Allergan and consulting fees from Pierre Fabre, Ferndale, Uriage, Sanofi, and Johnson & Johnson. Steve Wang has been a consultant for Ferndale and Neutrogena. Rohit Maruthi and Jennifer Brescoll Mancuso have no conflicts of interest.


No funding was received for the preparation of this review.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Mancuso, J.B., Maruthi, R., Wang, S.Q. et al. Sunscreens: An Update. Am J Clin Dermatol 18, 643–650 (2017).

Download citation


  • Zinc Oxide
  • Critical Wavelength
  • Oxybenzone
  • Avobenzone
  • Sunscreen Application