Q: What’s this I hear about sunscreen chemicals getting into my body?
A: A recent study found that if you apply sunscreen under maximal conditions — frequently enough, using a high enough sun protection factor and covering adequate body surface area — some of the chemicals in the sunscreen are absorbed into the bloodstream and measured at a higher concentration than was previously thought.
The federal Food and Drug Administration has called for further studies on the effects of those chemicals. “The main concern is that these chemicals may affect endocrine and reproductive systems,” explains Ramsay Farah, MD, chief of dermatology at Upstate.
He emphasizes that “the study did not suggest that people should not wear sunscreen. On the contrary. The study still recommended that people wear sunscreen.
“Look for sunscreens with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These are physical blockers. Yes, they are absorbed into the bloodstream, but they are absorbed less than the chemical blockers. And even though they are absorbed, they are considered inert, so they don’t have the same potentially disruptive effects on the endocrine and reproductive systems.”
Click here to hear Farah discuss sunscreens and skin protection in a “HealthLink on Air” podcast/radio interview.
How high of an SPF does he recommend?
“Thirty or above. There’s nothing wrong with using 50 or 60, but the general principle is using SPF 30 properly — meaning every two hours — is better than using 50 and just applying it once. So 30 is the minimum number. Reapplication is the key.”
Q: How does CBD work?
A: Hemp and marijuana are like cousins from the same plant family. The Farm Bill that became law in December legalized hemp cultivation. CBD, short for cannabidiol, is extracted from hemp. THC, short for tetrahydrocannabinol, the compound that creates a high, is found in higher concentrations in the marijuana plant.
Marijuana contains some CBD, and hemp may contain small amounts of THC – no more than 0.3 percent, according to the Farm Bill. “By itself, CBD does not cause a high,” says Caitlin Sgarlat Deluca, DO, who specializes in rheumatology and integrative medicine at Upstate.
She explains that CBD and THC both work on the body’s endocannabinoid system, which regulates certain inflammatory processes, functions such as sleep and immune system and pain responses. CBD is thought to inhibit inflammatory and neuropathic pain processes.
Click here to hear Deluca explain what CBD can and can’t do in a “HealthLink on Air” podcast/radio interview.
“Some preliminary research shows that CBD may help curb addictions to heroin and other dangerous opioids. There’s also some preliminary evidence of efficacy in certain pain syndromes and rheumatoid arthritis,” Deluca says. “I think there’s great potential with CBD.”
But, she says, scientific studies are needed to answer what dose is safe and effective, and how CBD interacts with medications.
Q: What’s wrong with thong underwear?
A: Especially when worn while working out, thongs can set a woman up for infection. Thongs tend to slide from back to front, moving fecal bacteria, Renee Mestad, MD, told a fitness newsletter called Greatist.com. Mestad is division chief of general obstetrics and gynecology at Upstate.
Sweating during your workout is liable to make things worse. “As the area gets damp, you’re going to experience a lot more friction,” Mestad says. “You might find yourself with small abrasions or other irritations that can then cause issues, which makes it easier for skin bacteria to penetrate the area.”
Mestad recommends breathable underwear made with performance-ready fabrics, especially if you can’t shower immediately after working out. “If you’re running, doing hot yoga or any other activities that result in a significant amount of sweating, it would benefit you to change out of your clothes, all the way down to the underwear, and into something fresh afterward.”
This article appears in the summer 2019 issue of Upstate Health magazine.