Dr.Bitter Sr.’s Scoop on Sunscreen!

We picked Dr. Patrick Bitter Sr’s brain for his knowledge of sunscreen and found some very interesting facts! See what the Doctor’s response was below!


We have come a long way since the US NAVY used RED VETERINARY PETROLATUM in World War II to protect their sailors. Even the more recent use of PABA(also known as para-aminobenzoic acid) seems ancient due to the rapid development of better and more advanced sunscreens. The sunscreen business is a billion dollar industry and is relentless in its efforts to ensure the general public is aware of and protected from the harmful effects of UV radiation. Yet even with the constant advertising and hundreds of brands to choose from, most people still do not know what sunscreen is the best for them. Hopefully, we can answer some of these questions and help you along the way with finding the perfect sunscreen.

Why protect the skin from ultra violet radiation? It helps to prevent premature ageing of the skin, reduces frequency of skin cancers and wrinkling of the skin. A sunscreen is any substance or material that protects one from the sun’s UV light. Sun glasses and clothing may qualify, along side of cream, gels, lotions and sprays.

What is SPF? The degree of protection is measured by the substances SPF or Sun Protection Factor. Currently this number is somewhat unregulated in the US, unlike Europe where a maximum of SPF 50 is used. SPF is related to the total amount of exposure. Unfortunately, SPF only measures the sun protection against UVB and not UVA, that likewise can cause skin cancer.

How much should I apply? One ounce (5-6 teaspoons) is considered enough to cover the entire body. The most effective applications are every two hours and to be generously applied. The SPF number found on the label cannot be achieved with too little application. Spray on sunscreens, while elegant and non messy, may be greatly reduced in effectiveness due to the very thin coat applied.

Who can wear sunscreen? Sunscreens are appropriate for everyone over the age of six months. Younger skin may not tolerate some of the chemicals used and should be avoided.

What does ‘broad spectrum mean? Is it important? New sunscreen labeling will appear this summer in keeping with FDA regulations. They will attempt to clarify questions regarding broad spectrum, waterproof, sweat proof and other issues. The term broad spectrum must now offer both UVA and UVB protection and only broad spectrum sun screens with a SPF of 15 can make the claim of reducing skin cancer risk. Also, any sunscreen with a SPF between 2 and 14 can only claim to help prevent sun burn. This is something to be remembered especially in cosmetics with lower SPFs, such as foundation. Further, claims of duration of effect can only be used with FDA approval after extensive data has been submitted and approved. The term water resistant can only be used on the front label when the sunscreen remains effective after swimming or sweating for 40-80 minutes.

Remember that 80% of radiation comes through clouds on a cloudy day and UV radiation increases 4% for every 1000 feet of elevation. Winter time snow reflections can also be a factor.

What sunscreen to choose. There are 1300 different sunscreens products on the US market. However, the tendency to use physical sunscreens such as zinc and titanium are becoming increasingly more popular in this green eco environment thatn chemical sunscreens.

If you have further questions, feel free to contact us as our staff is prepared to meet all of your needs and answer questions on sunscreen usage.