Tips for Choosing the Right Sunscreen

Hannah Seda Calcium and Bone Health 2 Comments

Image by Jon-Eric Melsæter

Image by Jon-Eric Melsæter

Rain or shine, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends everyone wear sunscreen to help prevent skin cancers and early signs of aging. Now that summer’s here, use this checklist of the most important things to look for when choosing a sunscreen that’s best (and safest!) for you and your family.

Buy Broad-spectrum Sunscreen

Broad-spectrum sunscreens protect against both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays (or aging rays) can age your skin prematurely, causing wrinkles and age spots. It can also pass through glass, such as windows. In contrast, UVB (or burning) rays are the primary cause of sunburn yet they’re blocked by glass. Check the labels to make sure they cover both UVA and UVB rays.

Use SPF 30 at Minimum

According to the ADA, dermatologists recommend sunscreen with a minimum 30 SPF. An SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 will block 97% of the sun’s rays. While higher SPFs will block slightly more of the sun’s rays, it’s important to remember these key facts:

  • Don’t spend extra cash for sunscreen over SPF 50. At the moment, there is no scientific proof that using a sunscreen with an SPF higher than 50 can protect you better than a sunscreen with an SPF of 50.
  • Using higher SPF sunscreen doesn’t mean you can stay outdoors longer. High-number SPFs last the same amount of time as low-number SPFs, so you’ll want to reapply regularly. Speaking of which…
  • Reapply your sunscreen at least every couple of hours. You can also guide yourself by what the label says, but reapply even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.

Get Water Resistant

Always choose a sunscreen that’s water resistant (lasts up to 40 minutes) or very water resistant (lasts up to 80 minutes) no matter what your activity plans are. You’ll still need to reapply because there’s no sunscreen that can make you waterproof or sweat proof. (Steer clear of any sunscreen bottles that make either of these claims.)

Check for Expiration Dates

According to FDA regulations, all sunscreens are required to maintain their strength for at least three years. The problem is not all sunscreen bottles have an expiration date, so you’ll have to keep note of when you bought the bottle if it doesn’t have an expiration date.

Image by Joe Shlabotnik

Image by Joe Shlabotnik

That being said, there are so many different types of sunscreen you can pick from––even after you eliminated some with the guide above. Here are some more tips that can help you choose the right sunscreen for you.

Choose cream or gel sunscreen over spray sunscreen, if possible.

According to the FDA, it’s challenging to determine if spray sunscreens adequately cover all of the sun-exposed skin; this means you could possibly miss some spots. It might be easier for you to just spray it on your hands and then apply.

Chemical sunscreens are OK.

When it comes to food and remedies, many of us prefer going the organic or more natural route, and that’s awesome. But when it comes to sunscreen, consider chemical ones.

There are two types of sunscreens that contain different active ingredients:

Chemical Sunscreens––

  • It protects your skin by absorbing the sun’s rays
  • Its active ingredients may include oxybenzone or avobenzene and others

Physical Sunscreens––

  • It protects your skin by deflecting the sun’s rays
  • Its active ingredients include titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide

Most sunscreens on the marketing are chemical-based, but don’t be afraid of the word. Studies have demonstrated multiple times the amount of chemicals absorbed by the skin is negligible and won’t harm you. In fact, studies have shown that many “natural” sunscreens (such as physical sunscreens with only one or both of the active ingredients present) don’t meet their SPF claims, and of those that do, they don’t protect better than chemical ones.

However, there are physical sunscreens that passed the Consumer Report you can try. Cotz Plus SPF 58 and California Baby Super Sensitive SPF 30+ performed the best when tested against other mineral sunscreens.

At the end of the day, no matter which brand or type of sunscreen you choose, understand that there is no safe way to tan. The American Academy of Dermatology says tanning damages your skin, which speeds up your skin’s aging process and increases your risk for all types of skin cancers. The “look” just isn’t worth the risk.

Now you know what to look for in the label to better protect your family’s skin health. Did you learn something new from this post? Let me know in the comments below!

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