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SPF Challenge: How to Choose the Best Sunscreen

July 24, 2018
Published in: Skin Cancer, Summer

Woman applying sunscreen while laying beside the pool

With hundreds of sunscreen brands crowding the shelves, how do you choose the best one? No worries, we have you covered! Here are the tips you need to choose the best sunscreen to protect your skin.

Understanding Sunscreen Labels

Remember, it's important to wear sunscreen year-round to protect against skin cancer and aging. However, during spring and summer the sun is stronger and the days are longer. Wearing sunscreen prevents sunburn, skin cancer, and premature aging. When choosing the best sunscreen you'll need to know these key terms:

UV: Ultraviolet Rays

The sun produces UV rays that are dangerous for your skin. Sunscreen works by absorbing the UV rays before they touch your skin. Some sunscreens disperse the UV rays away from your skin.

UVA: Ultraviolet A Rays

UVA rays don't cause sunburn. However, they do increase your risk of skin cancer. Because UVA rays are absorbed deep into your skin, they are also the leading cause of wrinkles. In fact, most unwanted skin aging is caused by your exposure to UVA rays.

UVB: Ultraviolet B Rays

UVB rays cause sunburn, skin aging, and most skin cancers. Originally, sunscreen only protected against UVB rays. It wasn't until later that sunscreen included UVA and UVB protection.

SPF: Sun Protection Factor

Beach accessories displayed on the sandSunscreen labels show the SPF level of the product, such as SPF 15. This number shows how well the sunscreen can protect against UVB rays only. Sunscreen that only has an SPF rating does not protect you from UVA rays. Doctor's suggest a minimum of SPF 15 or SPF 30 for adequate protection. Choose a higher SPF rating if you have a family history of skin cancer or other sunlight sensitivities. Take note, even SPF 100 can only protect you from 99% of UVB rays. No sunscreen provides complete protection.

Water resistant vs. Waterproof

No sunscreen is waterproof. However, some can stay on for a limited amount of time in water or while sweating. Follow the instructions on the sunscreen for when to reapply. A general rule of thumb is to reapply your sunscreen every two hours.

Broad spectrum: Protects against UVA and UVB rays

A broad-spectrum sunscreen gives you protect from both UVA and UVB rays.

More Ways to Stay Safe in the Sun

Woman n a wide brim hat relaxing beside the poolIt's wise to combine sunscreen use with these skins saving tips:

  • Wear a wide brimmed hat
  • Wear sunglasses that block UV light
  • Stay in the shade between 10a.m. and 4p.m. when UV rays are stronger
  • Do don't use tanning beds
  • Keep an eye on your skin and note any changes
  • Get regular skin cancer screenings

The Verdict

A broad-spectrum, water resistant, high SPF sunscreen will provide you with maximum protection. However, sunscreen is only effective if you follow the instructions carefully. Reapply sunscreen often, especially when swimming or sweating. As a general rule, apply sunscreen every two hours. No sunscreen is 100% effective so take additional precautions. If you notice changes to your skin consult with your doctor.