How To Choose A Sunscreen
Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall all have one thing in common: sunscreen should be used year-round to protect your skin from the cancer-causing and aging-effects of the sun’s UVB and UVA rays.
Why Using Sunscreen Is Imperative
One of the best non-clinical, easy to understand, explanations of the sun’s effect on our skin is an article posted by REI, the outdoor adventurer retailer: Sunscreen: How It Works. You’ll find useful charts offering usage guidelines per outdoor activity levels; a discussion on ingredient safety, and product labeling.
The sun’s UVA and UVB rays pack a powerful, and dangerous, punch if you don’t protect your skin. Here’s what REI has to say…
Can prematurely age skin resulting in wrinkles, age spots and leathery texture. It also can contribute to melanoma, a skin cancer. It is the hard-to-detect “stealth bomber” segment of the UV spectrum.
- Deeply penetrates skin, though its effects may not become visible for years.
- Affects skin at any time of day, and in winter, too.
- Passes through clouds and glass.
- Accounts for about 95% of UV radiation that reaches earth (though earth’s ozone layer absorbs most solar energy).
- The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that up to 90% of skin changes associated with aging are really caused by a lifetime’s exposure to UVA rays.
Can burn skin. UVB rays are the “flamethrowers” of solar energy.
- Penetrates the skin’s outer layer only.
- Affects skin primarily between 10am and 2-4pm, most intensely during summer.
- Causes near-immediate effects (reddening, sunburn, blisters).
- Can partially penetrate clouds but not glass; this explains why your skin does not burn while you ride inside a windows-up vehicle—though glass-penetrating UVA rays can still affect you.
- Can contribute to skin cancer.
- Accounts for about 5% of the sun’s energy that reaches earth.
For more information of the dangers of sun exposure view this MyNews 3 Las Vegas video on YouTube featuring JuveRest Co-Founder Dr. Goesel Anson on preventing skin cancer. Also, the FDA helps us understand how to best interpret labels and understand regulations.
Choosing A Sunscreen
We gathered some great information from mayoclinic.org and webmd.com and summarized the gist of it all below. You can find additional valuable information from the Skin Cancer Foundation, American Cancer Society and the American Academy of Dermatology.
What Is SPF? SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, which is a measure of how well the sunscreen deflects UVB rays. Manufacturers calculate SPF based on how long it takes to sunburn skin that’s been treated with the sunscreen as compared with skin that hasn’t been treated with sunscreen. If you are outside for long stretches (2+ hours), choose SPF 30 or higher. An SPF rating offers no clues to how well a sunscreen guards skin from age-hastening UVA rays, and no comparable rating for UVA exists.
What Is Broad Spectrum? Always look for the term “broad spectrum” on a label when buying sunscreen. The term Broad Spectrum indicates that a product is deemed effective against both UVB (skin-burning) and UVA (skin-aging) rays. Look for these ingredients: benzophenones (oxybenzone), cinnamates (octylmethyl cinnamate and cinoxate), sulisobenzone, salicylates, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, avobenzone (Parsol 1789) and ecamsule (Mexoryl SX).
Does Sweat- or Water-resistant Mean Waterproof? No sunscreen is waterproof, even though that term used to appear on product labels. Based on performance in lab tests, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines now allow products to claim water (or sweat) resistance of either 40 or 80 minutes.
Spray Sunscreen Or Lotion? Certain types of sunscreen work best on specific areas of the body.
- If you have dry skin, you might prefer a cream, especially for your face.
- A gel or spray might work better for areas covered with hair, such as the scalp or a man’s chest.
- When using spray sunscreen, be sure to apply a generous and even coating. Avoid inhaling the product.
Do I Need To Apply Sunscreen Even If I Wear Cosmetics That Contain Sunscreen?
- If you wear cosmetics that contain sunscreen, such as moisturizer, foundation or lipstick, you’ll need to reapply them every two hours when outside or also apply a separate sunscreen.
- If you won’t be spending much time outdoors and you don’t wash your face or heavily sweat during the day, it’s OK to apply a moisturizer containing sunscreen just once in the morning.
Skin Types And Sunscreens
Some tips and tricks found via Choose The Right Sunscreen For Skin Type at skincancer.org.
- Children’s Skin: The physical sunscreens zinc oxide and titanium dioxide tend to be better tolerated by people with sensitive skin and can usually be found in sunscreens for babies and children.
- Allergy, Acne and Rosacea Prone Skin: Patients with allergy-prone skin or conditions such as acne or rosacea should avoid products containing preservatives or fragrances, as well as those containing PABA or oxybenzone. Dry Skin: Numerous moisturizers are used in sunscreens; popular ones include lanolin, oils, and silicones such as dimethicone.
- People with Melasma, a History of Skin Cancer, or Very Fair Skin: For patients with a blotchy brown discoloration of the skin called melasma, those who have had skin cancer, or those who are very fair, sunscreen with an SPF of 30+ is recommended daily for extra protection. Darker Skin Tones: Individuals with darker skin who tan easily and rarely burn may feel they do not need to use sunscreen. However, like sunburn, a tan is the result of DNA damage from exposure to the sun’s harmful UV radiation. Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15+.
- Older Person: Older individuals who have already received large amounts of UV light exposure in their lifetime can still benefit from sunscreen use. At any age, unprotected sun exposure increases the risk of developing new skin cancers and pre-cancers. It also accelerates skin aging, leading to age spots, wrinkles, sagging, and leathery skin.
Which Sunscreen Is The Best?
Experts agree, the best sunscreen is the sunscreen you like well enough to use it regularly.