With summer in full swing, it’s time for fun in the sun! No matter if you are planning to make a trip to the beach or spend the afternoon in your own backyard, it is important that you take measures to protect your skin. Sunscreen use is essential for everyone, regardless of skin tone or photosensitivity. It is easy to become overwhelmed in the skincare aisle, with so many sunscreens to choose from. Here are 5 tips on how to choose, and use, the right sunscreen for you.
The sun gives off UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays are the ones typically responsible for causing sunburns and skin cancer. UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin. They can contribute to skin cancer and are also responsible for premature aging. All sunscreens protect against UVB rays. Choose a sunscreen that is broad spectrum. These sunscreens protect against both UVB and UVA rays.
It is important that you wear sunscreen every day, even when it is cloudy. Clouds typically only filter out about 20% of UV rays, which means that you are still exposed to about 80% of harmful rays.
SPF 30 or Higher
Sunscreens are available in several different SPF (sun protection factor) ratings. These ratings show the level of protection against UVB rays. Generally, higher SPF ratings mean more protection. For instance, SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays, whereas SPF 30 blocks 97%. SPF 50 blocks 98% and SPF 100 blocks 99%. No sunscreen can block 100%. Experts recommend always using SPF of 30 or higher.
Physical Vs. Chemical Sunscreens
Sunscreens are in one of two categories – physical and chemical. The difference is the ingredients. Physical sunscreens have active ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, and they rest on the surface of your skin. Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, contain ingredients such as avobenzone, octinoxate, and oxybenzone. These sunscreens absorb into the skin and prevent deeper sun penetration. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, chemical sunscreens can irritate sensitive skin. If you have sensitive skin, are prone to allergic reactions, or have certain skin conditions, physical sunscreens are considered less likely to cause irritation. This is why they are more commonly recommended for young children than chemical sunscreens. If you’re not sure which type is best for you, consult your primary care doctor or dermatologist for recommendations.
It is important that you apply sunscreen safely and properly in order to achieve the best sun protection. Apply your sunscreen approximately 30 minutes before you go into the sun. This will give chemical sunscreens the time they need to absorb into the skin. Physical sunscreens are effective upon application. Cover all exposed skin, including the tops of your feet, your neck, your ears and your scalp. Use a generous amount of sunscreen.
If you are using a spray sunscreen, hold the nozzle approximately one to two inches away from your body. Keep still for one to two seconds before moving on to the next area of skin. Avoid using sprays around your face.
When to Reapply
Sunscreen break down over time and lose their effectiveness. One application of sunscreen is not enough to protect you during your hours in the sun. Reapply your sunscreen (lotion or spray) every two hours. You should also reapply sunscreen after getting out of the water or after excessive sweating.