sunscreenWith summer on the way, it’s important to choose the right sunscreen to protect yourself from sunburns and harmful UV rays.  However, it is a bit difficult to tell which brand to pick. There are so many different sunscreens in the market that it can be tough to choose, especially since many brands do not offer full spectrum protection.  Some brands of sunscreen even contain harmful chemicals that can be just as dangerous as the UV rays.

This article will help you learn how to distinguish between brands of sunscreen and pick out the one that is just right for you.

Higher SPF Does Not Guarantee More Protection
First of all, although there are SPF ratings that reach well above 90, after a certain point you begin to receive diminishing returns.

  • An SPF of 15 blocks around 94% of all UVA and UVB rays, while 30% blocks around 97%, and 45 blocks 98%.
  • The higher the number goes, the less effective it is beyond that point.
  • However, due to consumer culture, people believe that buying the most expensive option is the best.  This is simply not true.
  • So the best bet is to not purchase anything above SPF 45, as that is simply a waste of your money.

Water Resistant Sunscreens Are More Effective
Look for sunscreens that are water resistant, and which do not have to be applied as often.  This allows you to have more fun in the sun without constantly worrying about returning to shore to slather on another coat.  But remember that even the best sunscreens need to be reapplied every few hours.

Avoid Buying Sunscreen Containing Harmful Chemicals
Make sure the sunscreen you choose doesn’t contain oxybenzone or retinyl palmitate.  There is a tremendous amount of controversy surrounding both of these chemicals.  As a major component of sunscreen, many people worry about how safe each of them are.

  • Oxybenzone is thought to be an endocrine disruptor, which means it can interfere with the performance of the body’s hormonal systems.
  • Retinyl palmitate, on the other hand, is thought to be a carcinogen – an agent which causes cancer.
  • While no studies have been conclusive on either matter, many people choose to purchase sunscreens which contain all natural ingredients, or at the very least, no harmful chemicals.

Go For A “Broad Spectrum” Sunscreen
The most effective sunscreen will block against both UVA and UVB rays, not just a single kind.

  • UVB rays are what cause sunburns; these are the rays that heat your skin and make you feel hot, leading to blistering and peeling later.
  • UVA rays penetrate into the skin and cause damage to the actual DNA, which can lead to skin cancer further down the line, as well as premature aging.
  • A sunscreen that blocks both kinds of rays will be called ‘broad spectrum.’ Look for that, rather than the kind that is only to prevent burning.

A sunscreen should be able to protect against both long term and immediate damage.

Choose a Sunscreen Based on Your Skin Type
For someone who burns easily, sunscreen may not be as effective. For instance,

  • A pale skinned person might need a more powerful SPF rating – sensitivity to the sun can make SPF 30 behave like SPF 10, and so forth.
  • Your own resistance or sensitivity to the sun needs to be taken into account when shopping for a sunscreen; if you know you burn easily, try to find one that will protect your skin completely.

To conclude, though the choice of a sunscreen is up to you, making that extra effort to research and buy one that protects your skin and saves you from dangerous side effects will pay off in the long run, resulting in beautiful and healthier skin.  So, when you next go to the store, shop with the right information in order to make the best, most informed decisions about what sunscreen to buy.  It will be worth it.

For more information, visit Careworks.

Author:  Michele Holincheck, FNP

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