We Are Sunshine

Skin Care Advertising Kicks Up Bogus Sun Scare Arguments

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

Multibillion-dollar sun scare purveyor Johnson & Johnson – manufacturer of the Aveeno skin care line – is recommending daily usage of sunscreen in a fear-laced television advertising campaign that contends “a year of daily sun exposure is like a week at the beach without sunscreen.”

It’s a statement that just doesn’t make sense.

2008-04-08-sunscreen-or-s.jpg“That kind of hyperbole – at a time when the public messaging about sun exposure should be normalizing – is so transparently fear-based to support a multibillion-dollar skin care empire,” Smart Tan Vice President Joseph Levy said. “Johnson & Johnson’s consumer products unit is larger by itself than the entire North American indoor tanning community. And yet somehow, when it comes to messaging about UV exposure, they are getting a pass and journalists aren’t checking their facts.”

So Smart Tan checked out – here are some of the more alarming statements along with our response:

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Question: When should I use a sunscreen?

Aveeno’s Answer: To help protect your skin from the damaging rays of the sun, dermatologists recommend wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher every day in all seasons… in summer and winter, on both cloudy and clear days.

Smart Tan’s Answer: Sunscreen is designed to prevent sunburn – it should only be used in situations where sunburn is a possibility. To suggest that sunscreen be used for any other purpose other than to prevent sunburn is mis-branding the product. Further, usage of sunscreen as a daily-use product completely blocks the skin’s ability to make sufficient vitamin D naturally.

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Question: Is sun exposure more dangerous for children?

Aveeno’s Answer: The majority of a lifetime’s sun exposure occurs under the age of 18, so babies, children, and adolescents need to protect their skin from sun exposure. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, regular sun protection throughout childhood can cut the rate of skin cancer by 80%. Teens may be especially at risk for developing skin cancer, because their cells are dividing and changing rapidly. Yet less than half of teenagers use sunscreens.

Smart Tan’s Answer: Aveeno’s contention that most sun exposure occurs before age 18 has been disproven as myth by an international, unaffiliated team of researchers – including FDA staff members. Actually, about 25 percent of lifetime exposure occurs before age 18. And while it is believed that sunburn at an early age is a risk factor for skin damage later in life, there is no data to suggest that sun exposure in a non-burning fashion is a significant risk factor.

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Question: Do I need some sun exposure to make Vitamin D?

Aveeno’s Answer: 5 to 10 minutes of sun exposure per day is enough for your body to make Vitamin D. You get this much just going about your daily activities.

Smart Tan’s Answer: There is no data to support Aveeno’s contention. Further, because everyone’s skin has differing ability to make vitamin D based on age, heredity and skin pigmentation, there is no way to even make a blanket one-size-fits-all recommendation. Finally, if everyone followed Aveeno’s recommendations to wear SPF 15 every day in all seasons, no one would make sufficient vitamin D through incidental exposure, as Aveeno contends.