Sunscreens ... Not All Are Created Equal

So often, people return from their tropical dream vacations sunburned, and are confused as to why. I hear this all the time – “I used sunscreen the entire trip, so why did I get so much sun?” I will try to keep it simple ...

The two most dangerous types of ultraviolet sun rays are UVB and UVA. UVB are the rays most responsible for sunburning, while UVA rays penetrate deeper in the dermis and cause aging, as well as suppression of the immune system. Both rays increase a person’s risk of getting skin cancer, which is the number one cancer in the United States. It is also the most preventable cancer, if you apply sunscreen before heading out into the sun, and if you apply it correctly.

You should choose your sunscreen wisely, as not all are created equal. Make sure the one you select is a broad spectrum sunscreen (meaning it will block both UVA and UVB rays) and contains a zinc or titanium dioxide, as these provide the best coverage and protection. It may also contain a chemical block such as avobenzone or oxybenzone. 

Apply sunscreen 15 minutes before exposure to sun, and be sure to reapply every two hours. If swimming or sweating, consider using a water-resistant version. 

SPF (sun protection factor) is the measure of a sunscreen’s ability to prevent UV rays from damaging the skin. Sunscreens with an SPF of 30 are sufficient, as long as they offer broad spectrum protection. While you may think it’s best to opt for a sunscreen with a higher SPF, these versions are many times more expensive, causing people to often make the mistake of using less. Instead, choose a less expensive sunscreen with sufficient SPF and reapply every two hours. 

Last, but certainly not least, most people simply do not use the correct amount of sunscreen for proper protection. It is recommended to use one ounce (approximately the amount that would fill a shot glass) for average size full-body application and a quarter of a teaspoon for face and neck application. 

We all know that daily sunscreen protection is essential for the prevention of skin cancer, skin damage, and premature aging. But with all the brands stocking store shelves, choosing the best sunscreen can be overwhelming. And since they aren’t all created equal, be sure to keep these tips in mind when purchasing sunscreen so you can make the best choice for you and your family.