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Cover(your ass)Girl

By Amalah

Dear Amalah,
Please oh please help me understand something. Why in the world do some daily moisturizers that contain SPF come with a note that sez you should wear a sunscreen while using the product and avoid sunlight for a week during and after using it? Whhhhhyyyyyy??
I guess this is a rhetorical question, because I technically understand that some skin treatments such as Retinol, etc., can make your skin more sensitive to sun. What makes me angry is that I just don’t get why: a) a company would make a product which claims to provide sun protection via its SPF elements and then turn around and tell you on the same damn bottle to wear an additional sunscreen when using the product, and b.) why they would call that product a “daily moisturizer” if you’re only allowed to use it at night or in the winter during the arctic north when the sun never rises, for fear of your face burning off.
These illogical statements make me ANGRY and I want to throw these products at the makers’ heads. It is hard enough knowing what to believe and use without this ridiculousness.
That is all.

Oh yes, like the time I bought a bottle of Strivectin for stretch marks. I plunked down a ridiculous amount of money for it almost immediately post-partum, since I assumed starting the treatment on new marks would be more effective. Plus, you know, HATE. MUST FIX NOW.
It wasn’t until I got home and began scanning the packaging for instructions that I noticed the warning: not for use by pregnant or nursing women.
I was breastfeeding, so…DAMN IT. And I was perplexed, since this stuff is sold at Sephora, not the pharmacy. The active ingredient is, essentially, a protein. It’s just a LOTION, for God’s sake. But it must cause some kind of horrible side effect for them to say that, right? Especially since pregnant and nursing women probably represent a huge chunk of their potential customers, right?
I asked my OB about it. I even brought the bottle and everything (dude, I was determined to fight those marks). He scanned the ingredients and shrugged, and said that it was more likely that the makers of Strivectin put that warning on the box because they HAVEN’T determined that the product is safe OR dangerous for pregnant/nursing women, and don’t plan to, since the costs of that study (and the potential for PR disasters) would be astronomical. I mean, you just don’t mess around with test panels of pregnant women, you know?
Then he handed the bottle back to me and said, “You should wait until you wean.”
I’m thinking your moisturizer is employing the same cover-your-ass technique. If it contains an acne-fighting ingredient (like salicylic acid) that’s been known to cause sensitivity to the sun, they figure it’s easier to toss a redundant warning on the package than a) fund an actual study that determines the SPF ingredient is enough to offset the other side effects, or b) get sued.
Just to be sure, however, I sent your email to AlphaFoxyMama Mary, who is also a pharmacist, and knows a thing or two about warning labels. Here’s what she had to say:

My guess is that the moisturizers to which Rebecca refers contain some sort of substance that could irritate or cause photosensitivity (mild glycolic acid or something related). And the reason that the companies put this somewhat conflicting information in their packaging is probably because they are trying to prevent getting sued.
Yes, this mentality is also brought to you by the makers of various hairdryers (who kindly warn you not to start your blowdrying session before you have ended your shower-obvious, I know!). This is also why, if you look at the prescribing information for almost any prescription drug on the market today, the list of “adverse events” could be pages long (even if there is no proof that the event was caused by the drug-it just happened when a patient was taking it).
Essentially, the companies think that if they mention these adverse events in their packaging, then the consumer has been duly warned and “can’t” sue them if they suffer said effect. In reality, this practice really doesn’t protect the company from anything. Because, in America, you can sue anybody for anything (and sometimes win!).

If you’ve ever submitted a question to the Smackdown, you know you get a little auto-response of legalese, reminding you that I am not a doctor and not an expert and this is for entertainment purposes only and blah blah blah. I know this amuses many of you, but…well…you’re probably the same ones who wouldn’t look at an outbreak of hives after using Curel as lawsuit paydirt, you know?

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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did the strivectin work? i haven’t had any babies yet but i have yucky red stretchmarks on my thighs and lower back (seriously wtf) and i’d love love LOVE for them to go away.