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CHICAGO – Sunscreen recommendations are most effective when a multitude of factors are considered, Susan C. Taylor, MD, is prednisone an nsaid said during a presentation on personal photoprotection at the inaugural Pigmentary Disorders Exchange Symposium.

Among the first factors physicians should consider before recommending sunscreen are a patient’s Fitzpatrick skin type, risks for burning or tanning, underlying skin disorders, and medications the patient is taking, Dr. Taylor, professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, said at the meeting, provided by MedscapeLIVE! If patients are on hypertensives, for example, medications can make them more photosensitive.

Consider skin type

Dr. Taylor said she was dismayed by the results of a recent study, which found that 43% of dermatologists who responded to a survey reported that they never, rarely, or only sometimes took a patient’s skin type into account when making sunscreen recommendations. The article is referenced in a 2022 expert panel consensus paper she coauthored on photoprotection “for skin of all color.” But she pointed out that considering skin type alone is inadequate.

Questions for patients in joint decision-making should include lifestyle and work choices such as whether they work inside or outside, and how much sun exposure they get in a typical day. Heat and humidity levels should also be considered as should a patient’s susceptibility to dyspigmentation. “That could be overall darkening of the skin, mottled hyperpigmentation, actinic dyspigmentation, and, of course, propensity for skin cancer,” she said.

Use differs by race

Dr. Taylor, who is also vice chair for diversity, equity and inclusion in the department of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania, pointed out that sunscreen use differs considerably by race.

In study of 8,952 adults in the United States who reported that they were sun sensitive found that a subset of adults with skin of color were significantly less likely to use sunscreen when compared with non-Hispanic White adults: Non-Hispanic Black (adjusted odds ratio, 0.43); non-Hispanic Asian (aOR. 0.54); and Hispanic (aOR, 0.70) adults.

In the study, non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic adults were significantly less likely to use sunscreens with an SPF greater than 15. In addition, non-Hispanic Black, non-Hispanic Asian, and Hispanic adults were significantly more likely than non-Hispanic Whites to wear long sleeves when outside. Such differences are important to keep in mind when advising patients about sunscreens, she said.

Protection for lighter-colored skin

Dr. Taylor said that, for patients with lighter skin tones, “we really want to protect against ultraviolet B as well as ultraviolet A, particularly ultraviolet A2. Ultraviolet radiation is going to cause DNA damage.” Patients with Fitzpatrick skin types I, II, or III are most susceptible to the effects of UVB with sunburn inflammation, which will cause erythema and tanning, and immunosuppression.

“For those who are I, II, and III, we do want to recommend a broad-spectrum, photostable sunscreen with a critical wavelength of 370 nanometers, which is going to protect from both UVB and UVA2,” she said.

Sunscreen recommendations are meant to be paired with advice to avoid midday sun from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., wearing protective clothing and accessories, and seeking shade, she noted.

Dr. Taylor said, for those patients with lighter skin who are more susceptible to photodamage and premature aging, physicians should recommend sunscreens that contain DNA repair enzymes such as photolyases and sunscreens that contain antioxidants that can prevent or reverse DNA damage. “The exogenous form of these lyases have been manufactured and added to sunscreens,” Dr. Taylor said. “They’re readily available in the United States. That is something to consider for patients with significant photodamage.”

Retinoids can also help alleviate or reverse photodamage, she added.

Protection for darker-colored skin

“Many people of color do not believe they need sunscreen,” Dr. Taylor said. But studies show that, although there may be more intrinsic protection, sunscreen is still needed.

Over 30 years ago, Halder and colleagues reported that melanin in skin of color can filter two to five times more UV radiation, and in a paper on the photoprotective role of melanin, Kaidbey and colleagues found that skin types V and VI had an intrinsic SPF of 13 when compared with those who have lighter complexions, which had an SPF of 3.

Sunburns seem to occur less frequently in people with skin of color, but that may be because erythema is less apparent in people with darker skin tones or because of differences in personal definitions of sunburn, Dr. Taylor said.

“Skin of color can and does sustain sunburns and sunscreen will help prevent that,” she said, adding that a recommendation of an SPF 30 is likely sufficient for these patients. Dr. Taylor noted that sunscreens for patients with darker skin often cost substantially more than those for lighter skin, and that should be considered in recommendations.

Tinted sunscreens

Dr. Taylor said that, while broad-spectrum photostable sunscreens protect against UVB and UVA 2, they don’t protect from visible light and UVA1. Two methods to add that protection are using inorganic tinted sunscreens that contain iron oxide or pigmentary titanium dioxide. Dr. Taylor was a coauthor of a practical guide to tinted sunscreens published in 2022.

“For iron oxide, we want a concentration of 3% or greater,” she said, adding that the percentage often is not known because if it is contained in a sunscreen, it is listed as an inactive ingredient.

Another method to address visible light and UVA1 is the use of antioxidant-containing sunscreens with vitamin E, vitamin C, or licochalcone A, Dr. Taylor said.

During the question-and-answer period following her presentation, Amit Pandya, MD, adjunct professor of dermatology at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, asked why “every makeup, every sunscreen, just says iron oxide,” since it is known that visible light will cause pigmentation, especially in those with darker skin tones.

He urged pushing for a law that would require listing the percentage of iron oxide on products to assure it is sufficient, according to what the literature recommends.

Conference Chair Pearl Grimes, MD, director of the Vitiligo and Pigmentation Institute of Southern California, Los Angeles, said that she recommends tinted sunscreens almost exclusively for her patients, but those with darker skin colors struggle to match color.

Dr. Taylor referred to an analysis published in 2022 of 58 over-the counter sunscreens, which found that only 38% of tinted sunscreens was available in more than one shade, “which is a problem for many of our patients.” She said that providing samples with different hues and tactile sensations may help patients find the right product.

Dr. Taylor disclosed being on the advisory boards for AbbVie, Avita Medical, Beiersdorf, Biorez, Eli Lily, EPI Health, Evolus, Galderma, Hugel America, Johnson and Johnson, L’Oreal USA, MedScape, Pfizer, Scientis US, UCB, Vichy Laboratories. She is a consultant for Arcutis Biothermapeutics, Beiersdorf, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Cara Therapeutics, Dior, and Sanofi. She has done contracted research for Allergan Aesthetics, Concert Pharmaceuticals, Croma-Pharma, Eli Lilly, and Pfizer, and has an ownership interest in Armis Scientific, GloGetter, and Piction Health.

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