Choosing the Right Sunscreen

Choosing the Right Sunscreen Jun 8, 2021 / by Complete Family Dermatology Team

Who else is enjoying the summer sun? While you should be wearing sunscreen 365 days a year, it’s incredibly important to wear sunscreen in the summertime. The sun’s rays are stronger, the days are longer, and you’re probably spending more time outside. Before purchasing sunscreen, you need to read the labels to find one that will protect your skin the best. Here are some tips for when it comes to choosing the right sunscreen… 

Understanding the Label

The Food and Drug Administration regulates sunscreen by testing its quality, safety, and effectiveness. Their guidelines require the bottles to be labeled. Here are some terms you should look for when buying sunscreen...
Broad Spectrum
Not all sunscreens are broad spectrum, so it’s important that you look for one that is. Sunscreens that are labeled with “broad spectrum” means that they have been tested and approved to protect against the sun’s ultraviolet rays. The broad spectrum sunscreen works as a barrier that absorbs or reflects the UV rays before it damages your skin. It will protect you from two types of harmful UV rays  — UVA and UVB. Most sunscreens will protect you from UVB, which is the primary cause of sunburns. But, it’s UVA that contributes to skin aging and skin cancer. Sunscreens that aren’t broad spectrum must carry a warning saying that they don’t protect against skin aging and skin cancer, only sunburns. 
Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 30
When choosing a sunscreen, you’ll want to look for one that has a Sun Protection Factor of 30 or higher (SPF 30). The SPF is an indicator of how much protection the sunscreen provides against UVB rays. Higher values, such as SPF 50, provide more protection. As stated by the American Cancer Association, the higher you go, the less difference it becomes. Here are the calculations they shared: 
  • SPF 15 sunscreens filter out about 93% of UVB rays
  • SPF 30 sunscreens filter out about 97% of UVB rays
  • SPF 50 sunscreens filter out about 98% of UVB rays
  • SPF 100 sunscreens filter out about 99% of UVB rays
No sunscreen will protect you completely. It’s recommended to wear a sunscreen with at least an SPF of 15 or higher. For fair skin tones, choose an SPF of 30 to 50. Any sunscreens that have an SPF of less than 15, must carry a warning saying that they don’t protect against skin aging or skin cancer, only sunburns.
Water Resistant
Don’t confuse “water resistant” with “waterproof.” Water resistant sunscreens will be labeled with how many minutes it lasts while swimming or sweating — typically 40 to 80 minutes. Water resistant sunscreen will still need to be re-applied every two hours or more. The sunscreen will typically rub off when you dry yourself with a towel after swimming, so you’ll need to put more on. 
Expiration Date
The FDA requires products to have an expiration date or be stability tested to last for at least three years. If your sunscreen doesn’t have a date on it, it should be considered expired three years after its purchase. To get the most protection, do not use sunscreens that have passed their expiration date (or three years). 

Closing Thoughts

No matter the season, wearing sunscreen should be a part of your daily routine. In addition to wearing sunscreen, you can stay sun-safe by covering up with clothing, seeking shade, and avoiding tanning beds. Do you have more questions about sun protection? Please reach out to South Lincoln’s dermatology experts — Complete Family Dermatology. We are here to help keep your skin healthy and happy. We offer skin checkups, skin cancer treatment, skin aging treatment, skin reconstruction, acne treatment, and growth removal. To schedule an appointment, please call 402-423-1111. 

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