Secrets on choosing the best sunscreen

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Secrets on choosing the best sunscreen

It’s no secret that no matter what time of year it is – spring, summer, fall, or winter – sunscreen is a must year round.  The true secret is to know which sunscreen is best for us and how to correctly use it to be most effective.  With such a wide variety and diversity of sunscreens to choose from, it makes it more complicated than ever. 

Making a purchase of sunscreen may seem straightforward enough, but not really.  If you want to make the best buy for you and your skin, choosing and then using the right sunscreen will make a tremendous difference in protecting your skin from harmful and damaging sun rays. 

Since most of us spend more time outdoors during the summer, this is likely when we remember to be more vigilant at wearing sunscreen.  Sunscreen is an important tool in the fight against skin cancer, including melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Choosing the best sunscreen

The job of any sunscreen is to shield you from the sun’s dangerous ultraviolet (UV) rays.  Years ago, the main thing we looked for in choosing a sunscreen was a high sun protection factor (SPF).  Now thanks to research, we know that there are two types of rays radiating from the sun – UVA and UVB.   UVA stands for ultraviolet A rays.  This type of ray is the one that increases skin cancer risk and aging of skin causing wrinkles – think of “A” for aging.  UVB stands for ultraviolet B and this type of sunlight associated with giving someone a sunburn – think of “B” for burn.

Here are things to look for when choosing a sunscreen right for you:

·      Sunscreen with broad-spectrum or multi-spectrum for both UVA and UVB.

·      SPF 30 or higher for UVB protection - The SPF number is the level of protection the sunscreen provides against UVB rays.  Higher SPF numbers do mean more protection but the higher you go, the smaller the difference becomes. 

·      For UVA protection, make sure the sunscreen contains at least one of the following:  ecamsule, avobenzone, oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, sulisobenzone, or zine oxide. 

·      Water resistant – There is no waterproof sunscreen - the FDA defines water resistant sunscreen as one with a SPF level that stays effective lasting for 40 minutes while swimming or sweating.  Since they are not waterproof, sunscreen will need to be reapplied at least every 2 hours.  If you towel yourself dry, the sunscreen will be rubbed off and you will need to put more on. 

·      Sunscreens for kids – Babies and children’s skin are sensitive so using ingredients that won’t irritate or harm their skin is a must.  Choose sunscreens with ingredients such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide  and avoid ones containing para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) and bezephenones like dioxybenzone, oxybenzone, or sulisobenzone.   Always choose a sunscreen with at least an SPF of 15 or higher and babies under 6 months of age should be kept out of the sun altogether. 

·      Sunscreen for problem skin – If you have sensitive skin or skin conditions such as rosacea, choose the same sunscreen that you would for a child that is less irritating.

Using sunscreen 

While choosing the best sunscreen is important, perhaps even more crucial is using it correctly, something many of us don’t do.  Choosing a sunscreen right for you is the first step in protecting your skin.  The second step is now to use it correctly for it to be effective and to use it every day throughout the year.  Here’s how:

·      Applying sunscreen – The time to apply sunscreen is 15 to 30 minutes before you go out into the sun.  This allows time for the sunscreen to absorb into the skin before exposure to sunlight. Do not skimp on applying sunscreen – one ounce of sunscreen, enough to fil a shot glass, is considered the amount needed to cover the exposed areas of the body.  Women should apply sunscreen under makeup. 

·      Cover all exposed area of skin – There are certain spots on the body that are exposed but many of us fail to cover with sunscreen – the tips of our ears, our feet, the back of our legs, and for anyone with a bald spot.  Even our lips are vulnerable to being burned and need to be protected with a UV lip balm.

·      Reapply every 2 hours – It doesn’t matter if you have been swimming, sweating or lounging poolside, reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours.

·      Pay attention to the expiration date.  Sunscreens do lose their effectiveness over time. 

·      Wear sunscreen year round, no matter what the weather – Hot, sunny days are not the only days to wear sunscreen.  Cloudy, overcast days can still allow up to 80% of the dangerous UV rays.

Other ways to stay sun-safe

·      Cover up – Wear clothing and a wide-brimmed hat to protect as much of your skin as possible.  Protect your eyes with sunglasses that block at least 99% of UV light.

·      Seek shade – Limit direct exposure to the sun especially between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm when UV rays are the strongest.

·      Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps – Both can cause serious long-term skin damage and contribute to skin cancer.