Star-Bulletin Features

Wednesday, May 12, 1999

Add sunscreen to
beauty arsenal

By Nadine Kam
Features Editor


Visit the multiple cosmetics bars at Sephora for a sampling of what's new and you'll find products boasting vitamins A, C and E.

Vitamins and herbal remedies are big in cosmetic talk today, when just a year ago all the buzz was about alpha-hydroxy formulations. These days you'll find companies like Lancome touting its "deep radiance booster;" a "Vitabolic" cream containing gingko, ginseng and vitamin C.

And don't think the craze is purely American. Out of Spain is Natura Bisse, with an "Action Complex" that contains, among other ingredients, amniotic fluid. And from China, An An Cream contains ginseng and pollen to "make you young and healthy."

With so many cosmetics lines appearing every day, it's difficult for consumers to gauge whether the claims are fact or fiction.

Dermatologist Norman Goldstein offers some reassurance, saying, "Anything you put on between the skin and sun helps keep skin looking younger."

But Goldstein suggests tuning out the expensive sales pitches promising youth in a jar, when really, the "secret" to looking young is plain old sunscreen.

"If you use sunscreen every day, it'll make your skin look younger in two years," says Goldstein. "This was proven 25 years ago."

Generally, an SPF of 30 is recommended for the fair-skinned; SPF 15 is fine for others.

Goldstein said it's wrong to think that 15 minutes spent walking to the post office is not enough to do any harm. The skin does not have to show signs of burning for damage to accumulate. Fifteen minutes of exposure per day in a year is the equivalent of baking in the sun without sunscreen for two weeks, eight hours a day.

While protecting their faces, "women should also use sunscreen to the 'V' of their necks. They don't do it, and that's why you see women with smooth faces and very wrinkled necks."

Goldstein is co-chair, along with Dr. James H. Penoff, of "Sun and Skin in Paradise," a free educational program being presented by Straub Foundation. The free event takes place Saturday at the Ilikai

Hotel, with skin specialists talking about methods of protecting the skin to mark Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month. The session will end with a 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. skin cancer screening clinic.

The word "cosmetics" has its origin in the Greek "kosmos" meaning the universe. Nancy Wilder, a certified clinical esthetician who is slated to speak about "Cosmetics: Lotions, Potions and Medical Fact," said cosmetics were originally used as protection from the elements before becoming a method of adornment.

Just as women in the past sacrificed for beauty's sake -- painting their faces with poisonous white lead and using washes containing arsenic -- women continue to take a chance on anything from using Preparation H on their skin in the '70s to undergoing surgery, she said, adding "more than aging, it's the sun that causes skin to look old."

Wilder's vast skin-care experience has involved working for cosmetic companies, as a makeup specialist for television, movies and print, and as a certified paramedical corrective skin specialist, augmenting the work of dermatologists. She also specializes in ultraviolet, infrared and Kirilian photography that show damage beneath the skin's surface. The images often scare people into taking better care of their skin.

She said it was only in 1975 that the FDA began requiring the cosmetics industry to start putting ingredient labels on their products, with the most prevalent ingredient listed first. Of course, in skin care lines, the No. 1 ingredient is almost always water.

"Everyone needs to learn to read ingredient lists. Turn the package over," said Wilder. And what people need to see in foundations, she said, is Vitamin C -- at least a 10 percent concentration -- and titanium dioxide. The latter acts as a shield from the sun's damaging UVA and UVB rays.

Although Goldstein said cosmetics manufacturers are not required by the Food and Drug Administration to perform double-blind studies required of medical companies, "Most cosmetics companies in the United States today are very ethical."

And, while the jury's still out on Vitamin E, Goldstein said Vitamin C and other anti-oxidant ingredients do help when applied topically.

"Vitamin C, when taken by mouth, doesn't get into skin at a high enough concentration. And if you ingest too much of it, it can upset the stomach."

Wilder said, "Vitamin C is able to penetrate the dermal layer to increase collagen production, blood flow, help smooth and lighten the skin. It's also an anti-inflammatory so it will calm the skin if irritated. I call it food for the skin."

This doesn't mean one should go out and buy bagfuls of oranges to rub on the skin. Real oranges also contain acids that can irritate the skin, and the vitamin C in them is unstable, Goldstein said.

"I can't stress using sunscreen enough and people do not listen," Wilder said. "Face it, we live in Hawaii and we're outside doing whatever. But if you're sitting in the sun, watching your kid play softball, you'd better use an umbrella.

"I wear black gloves. I cover myself in black, I have an umbrella and that's how I go out of the house.

"I work out, I take care of myself, and I consider myself a walking advertisement for what I do."

Sun and Skin in Paradise

Bullet Educational program: 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday
Bullet The site: Ilikai Hotel
Bullet Admission: Free, but space is limited.
Bullet Reservations: Call Straub, 524-6755.

Pick up a good daily habit

The Hawaii Skin Cancer Coalition's goal is to make skin cancer prevention efforts, such as wearing hats and sunscreen while outdoors, as commonplace as brushing your teeth.

The group comprises representatives from the American Cancer Society, the Hawaii State Department of Health and other local health service health organizations.

Last year, the ACS reported 41,600 Americans were diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Of that number, 7,300 will die from the disease. Since 1973, the rate of new melanoma diagnosed per year has doubled from six new cases per 100,000 people to 12 per 100,000.

Melanomas typically take about 20 years to develop, and its been documented that most sun damage occurs before age 18, because youths are most likely to spend time outdoors.

For information about free skin cancer screenings this month, call the Cancer Information Service of Hawai'i toll free at 1 (800) 4-CANCER (226237) between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Mondays to Fridays.

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