It can be overwhelming to walk into a store and choose a sunscreen. There are so many brands, options, and abbreviations. Who has time to stop and read ALL the labels for the important information? Well, here are some guidelines to follow the next time you arrive at the “Summer Aisle” at Wal-Mart, and have some difficulty picking out a sunscreen.
SPF means Sun Protection Factor. The SPF means if you use the sunscreen, your skin will not burn as fast as if you were not using it. For example, if you use an SPF 20, you can stay in the sun 20 minutes longer than if you were not wearing the sunscreen with SPF 20.
Just because the SPF is higher does not mean you are getting better protection. Because 100 is twice as much as 50, sunbathers are often misled into thinking that SPF 100 is twice as protective as SPF 50. That is not the case. SPF 100 is only about 1% more effective than SPF 50. SPF 50 protects 98% of rays, but SPF 100 protects 99%.
Find a sunblock that deflects UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays are the main culprit of wrinkling and aging. UVA rays are absorbed into the skin, but most sunscreens block these rays. UVB rays are the rays that produce sunburns, and are the main culprit that causes skin cancer. Sunscreens will chemically absorb the UV rays. Sunblocks will deflect the UV rays. It is important to find a screen or block that advertises a ‘Broad Spectrum’ of protection. These products will protect against UV rays.
Don’t use a spray sunscreen or a powder sunscreen. There is a growing risk that these products may pose an inhalation risk. It is also difficult to cover all of the skin when using a spray, which leaves some parts of the skin exposed to the sun’s harmful UV rays. Also, using a sunscreen and insect repellent combination can be harmful. Sunscreen in this combination can lead to the skin’s absorption of toxic insect repellent ingredients.
Tanning oils offer very little protection against the sun’s rays. Sunbathers want to avoid any products with low SPF’s, as they don’t protect well against the sun’s UV rays. Using products with an SPF of lower than 15 comes with an increased risk of developing skin cancer, as well as wrinkling and leathering of the skin.
If you are looking for a safe and effective sunscreen or sunblock, I encourage you to look at the website listed below, the Environmental Working Group. Most of the sunscreens on the market in the United States are listed on this website, and each have a number “grade” from 1 to 9 (one is the best, nine the worst). These grades are based on the toxic ingredients found in sunscreen, as well as their effectiveness. It might surprise you to find out what grade your current sunscreen has earned. The website also has more information regarding the use of sunscreens and sunblocks.
Thanks for reading today’s article! Be safe out there.