Q Many years ago, PABA was included in sunscreen products. As I recall, it was considered important for protection from the harmful effects of sun exposure. Now, most products I see say they are PABA-free. Why the change?
GREG, Lantz, Nova Scotia

A It has long been known that sun bumps, a kind of photoallergic reaction, can be caused by benzophenone or its derivatives, especially in women. These UV absorbers, including PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid), are still found in many of the most commonly used cheap sunscreens.

Instead of PABA, Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw use octyl para-methoxycinnamate, an FDA-approved UVA absorber, in their extraordinary sunscreen, Maui SolarMax (see the interview with them in the July 2006 issue). They chose it because many cinnamic acid derivatives are also antioxidants. They also use titanium dioxide, another FDA-approved sunscreen, which acts as a highly efficient UV blocker, and octyl salicylate, a UVB absorber.

Do not think that sunscreens are only for summer use. Daily use on skin that is routinely exposed to the sun throughout the year can be very beneficial. And don’t forget to take sunscreen along on your winter vacations.

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