7 things to remember when choosing the best sunscreen
Sun protection is something we shouldn't take for granted all year round. Here's how to find the perfect sunscreen for your skin
Ask any dermatologist and they’ll pretty much agree: SPF is a must–rain or shine. So, choosing the best one for your skin is so important.
With so many brands promising the perfect sun protection, it may be difficult to make the right choice.
What should you look for when shopping for the perfect sunscreen?
Taking into consideration UVA protection and application frequency, they came up with super helpful tips for a sunburn-free summer and beyond.
Basically, you should only go for SPF 40+ and apply freely on your skin. This helps reduce sunburn as well as redding, wrinkles, sagging, discoloration and, most importantly, skin cancer.
“SPF stands for ‘sun protection factor’ and is a rough measure of how well the sunscreen can keep your skin from getting damaged by the sun,” Johnston explains to TODAY. “SPF 50 blocks 98 percent of the rays attacking your skin, and lower SPFs block less.”
But, it doesn’t end there. UVA and UVB protection also matters: “It’s not hype at all! UVA and UVB rays cause different types of damage; Generally speaking, UVB rays cause sunburn, and UVA cause deeper, longer-term damage like wrinkles,” she adds. “Both UVA and UVB contribute to skin cancer, so it’s important to have a sunscreen that can block both.”
Dermatologists and researchers agree that you should apply a “shot-glass-size worth” of suncreen–that’s about an ounce–every single hour you spend outdoors.
Make sure to apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before you step outside and then every hour. After swimming or sweating, sunscreen must be reapplied.
Waterproof sunscreen is a myth. More on that on the next page
When shopping for a sunscreen, the “waterproof” feature is somewhat of an urban myth. You should never count on sunscreen to stick to your skin after swimming or working out — plus, per FDA regulation, sunscreen can only claim water-resistance for up to 80 minutes before reapplication.
“If you do go in the water, it’s important to reapply immediately after you get out,” cautions Johnston. “If you plan to be in the water for longer than an hour or so — say, if you’re surfing or long-distance swimming — wear protective clothing instead.”
Currently, there are two main formulas for sunscreen: physical and chemical. Physical is the type which reflects sun beams away. While, the chemical type soaks up rays even before they hit your skin.
Some brands offer a hybrid of physical and chemical sunscreen formulas.
“Generally speaking, physical sunscreens (those with zinc oxide and titanium oxide in the ingredients) are the ones that tend to appear white on the skin,” Johnston explains. “Chemical sunscreens, that use oxybenzone and avobenzone, usually dry to a much more subtle finish. If a physical sunscreen is making you look chalky, try a chemical sunscreen instead.”
More tips to finding the perfect sunscreen on the next page!
Go for sunscreen lotion instead of sprays. Though it’s tempting to go for sprays because they’re easier to apply, they don’t guarantee full coverage; spotty application is pretty much guaranteed.
“Sprays have recently become a popular offering, because it seems like they save you from having to rub them in,” says Johnston. “But if you check the label, you actually must rub them in to work.”
Lotion is still the safest type because there’s also a risk of inhalation when it comes to sprays.
Avoid the myth that certain sunscreens are made for “sensitive skin”; it’s simply a marketing term. Chemits Perry Romanowski and dermatologist Patricia Treadwell confirms to The Sweethome that such types don’t exist.
“Everyone can be irritated by different things,” explains Johnston. “If a sunscreen is irritating you, it’s most likely to be the fragrances or dyes in the sunscreen.”
So what should you be using for kids? First of all, babies under 6 months shouldn’t be exposed to the sun at all.
Those sunscreens marketed for babies and kids are pretty much the same thing: they just come in different packages and scents designed for kids.
“Unless your child needs to smell like a banana to be convinced to wear sunscreen, there’s no need to pay more for them,” says Johnston.
The Sweethome’s study reveals that paying more doesn’t assure that what you’ll be getting is more effective.
“Sunscreens that are more expensive are packed with expensive but irrelevant ingredients (think extracts and fragrances) that are not present in high enough amounts to make a difference in effectiveness,” warns Johnston.
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