FAQ About Sunscreen

FAQ About Sunscreen May 24, 2022 / by Complete Family Dermatology Team

Sunscreen is an important part of sun safety. It helps protect your skin from the sun’s UV radiation, which can cause skin cancer and other health problems. Today, we'll be breaking down the basics of sunscreen by answering some FAQs.

How do I choose the right sunscreen?

When choosing a sunscreen, it's important to consider one that offers the following protection:
  • broad-spectrum
  • SPF 30 or higher
  • water-resistant

Does everyone need to wear sunscreen?

Yes! Sunscreen is important for everyone. Wearing sunscreen can lessen your risk of developing skin cancer, which anyone can get regardless of age, sex, or race.

What are the dangers of not wearing sunscreen?

The dangers of not wearing sunscreen include an increased risk of developing skin cancer and other health problems, such as sunburns, premature skin aging, and skin growths. Excessive exposure to UV rays is the lead cause of all of these problems. 

How much sunscreen should I use, and how often should I reapply it?

When putting on sunscreen, you should be applying enough to cover all the skin that your clothing is not covering up. In general, that's about 1 ounce. Sunscreen should be applied 15 minutes before going outside and reapplied every 2 hours (or more often if you're sweating or swimming).

Do I have to wear sunscreen on cloudy days?

The sun radiates harmful rays all year-round, which means that sunscreen should be worn every day regardless of the weather. Clouds do not protect your skin from the sun's UV radiation, so please wear sunscreen even on cloudy days. And it's important to note, that when you plan to be in environments with snow, sand, or water, your need for sunscreen increases because those conditions reflect the sun's rays.

My sunscreen isn’t broad-spectrum. What should I do?

The sun emits two types of harmful rays that reach the earth: UVA and UVB. Sunscreen with broad-spectrum protect your skin from the dangers of both types of radiation. UVA is the type of radiation that causes premature skin aging, while UVB is the type of radiation that causes sunburns. Neither of which anyone should want to experience, so it is highly recommended that you only use sunscreens that are labeled "broad-spectrum” and discard the others. 

What does SPF mean? And why are there numbers? 

SPF stands for sun protection factor. The American Academy of Dermatology explains how it works: Dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, which blocks 97 percent of the sun's UVB rays. A higher number SPFs block slightly more of the sun's UVB rays, but no sunscreen can block 100 percent of the sun's UVB rays. It is also important to remember that high-number SPFs last the same amount of time as low-number SPFs. A high-number SPF does not allow you to spend additional time outdoors without reapplication.

Is sunscreen safe to put on my baby?

A broad-spectrum sunscreen is safe to put on babies older than 6 months old. If your baby is younger than 6 months, it is recommended to not use sunscreen and to avoid exposing them to the sun's rays altogether. Instead, keep them in the shade and dress them in clothing that provides lots of skin coverage.

Does it make a difference if I use a sunscreen lotion or spray?

Sunscreen lotions are absorbed into the skin better than sunscreen sprays. With sprays, it can be difficult to know if you have used enough to adequately cover the area. In addition, sunscreen sprays can be harmful if they are inhaled, so it is important to avoid spraying sunscreen near your face or near children. In these instances, spray into your hands and then rub onto the skin. But all in all, a lotion is recommended over a spray. 

Does sunscreen expire?

Yes, sunscreen expires. It is recommended to discard sunscreen after 3 years or if the expiration date has passed. The sunscreen will be less effective after this time and may not offer the same level of protection. If you notice changes in color or consistency of the product, that means it's to time throw it out.

How does the FDA regulate my sunscreen?

The FDA regulates the safety and effectiveness of your sunscreen. It oversees the ingredients used as well as how the bottle is labeled. On the label, you'll see whether a sunscreen is broad-spectrum, the SPF number, a skin cancer/skin aging alert, and a water resistance indicator. Sunscreens that offer more protection must undergo more rigorous testing and meet specific guidelines to be sold in the United States.

Closing Thoughts

The more you know about sunscreen, the better you can protect yourself. At Complete Family Dermatology in Lincoln, NE, our board-certified dermatologist, physician assistants, and nurses are all about helping you keep your skin safe and healthy. Our services range from skin cancer treatment and skin aging reconstruction to growth removal and total body skin exams. To schedule an appointment, please call us at 402-423-1111. Have more questions about sunscreen and sun safety? Leave us a comment on social media and we'll get back to you!


Sunscreen: Questions patients ask, American Academy of Dermatology Association.  

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