Choosing the right sunscreen can be quite difficult with all the choices out there. We use sunscreen to block ultraviolet light from damaging the skin. There are two categories of UV light — UVA and UVB. UVA is responsible for aging the skin, while UVB are the rays that burn the skin.
What is SPF?
SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, is a measure of how well a sunscreen will protect skin from UVB rays, the kind of radiation that causes sunburn, damages skin, and can contribute to skin cancer. If your skin would normally burn after 10 minutes in the sun, applying an SPF 15 sunscreen would allow you to stay in the sun without burning for approximately 150 minutes (a factor of 15 times longer).
The SPF (Sun Protection Factor) scale is not linear:
• SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays
• SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays
• SPF 50 blocks 98% of UVB rays
So which sunscreen is best for you?
In addition to an SPF of at least 30, your sunscreen should include some combination of the following UVA-blocking ingredients: zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, avobenzone, ecamsule, and oxybenzone. Sunscreens with both UVA and UVB protection may be labeled multi spectrum, broad spectrum, or UVA/UVB protection.
For children or adults with sensitive skin, buy a sunscreen with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Unlike chemical ingredients, these protect babies’ skin without being absorbed, and are less likely to irritate the skin.
For kids 6 months or older, look for a sunscreen designed for children with an SPF of 15 or higher. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies under 6 months be kept out of the sun altogether.
• Apply sunscreen at least 15 to 20 minutes before going into the sun. If your skin is already red from the sun, the damage has already started.
• Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours, or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
• Wear protective clothing such as long sleeved shirts, long pants and wide-brimmed hats.
• Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should only be used on babies over the age of six months.
• Stay out of the sun during the hottest hours of the day and seek the shade as much as possible.