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Abstract

Sunscreens are topical preparations designed to protect the skin from the negative effects of sun exposure. Their proven clinical benefits include the protection against sunburn erythema; attenuation of photoaging; the decreased incidence of some forms of skin cancers and precursors, namely cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, actinic keratoses, and possibly invasive melanoma; and the treatment and prevention of various photo-induced and photo-aggravated dermatoses.

Sunscreens’ protecting effects depend on their ultraviolet radiation (UVR) filtering spectrum—comprising UVB filters measured by the sun protection factor (SPF) and UVA filters—and further on their properties of water resistance, photostability and cosmetic acceptability that condition compliance and correct use.

Current recommendations endorse the regular use of broad spectrum, UVB and UVA filtering sunscreens, with SPF > 15 (>30 by some guidelines), applied in amount of 2 mg/cm2, on UV-exposed skin, 20 min before and repeated at least every 2 h during sun exposure, in addition to other photoprotection measures like wearing protective clothing, seeking shade, and avoiding peak-hour sun exposure and artificial tanning devices (sunbeds).

Sunscreens alone do not appear to impact on the vitamin D levels of healthy individuals, but consistent photoprotection through sunscreens use combined with physical and behavioral measures of reducing UVR exposure warrants vitamin D status screening and oral supplementation in case of defficiency.

Topical sunscreens are generally well tolerated and safe when properly and reasonably used. Recent concerns on their long-term effects include the possible systemic transepidermal absorption at high doses and its impact on endocrine and developmental systems, the potential photo-oxidative tissue damage induced by photo-unstable, epidermis-penetrating UVR filters, and their potential effect on marine ecosystems following globally increased use.

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Forsea, AM. (2023). Sunscreens. In: Katsambas, A.D., Lotti, T.M., Dessinioti, C., D'Erme, A.M. (eds) European Handbook of Dermatological Treatments. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-15130-9_156

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