Sunscreens help protect our skin from harmful UV rays that cause sunburn, premature aging, and skin cancer. While dermatologists recommend we apply sunscreen every day, more than half of Americans rarely or never use sunscreen. These days, there are lots of lotions and sprays available, and we’ll explain how to choose the best one to shield your skin this summer.

MINERAL VS. CHEMICAL SUNSCREEN

The biggest reason consumers report not wearing sunscreen is they dislike how it feels on their skin. This is where understanding the difference between mineral and chemical sunscreens comes in.

Mineral sunscreens offer broad-spectrum protection and contain UV filters zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, or both, which reflect UV rays away from the skin. Mineral sunscreens are recommended because they absorb instantly and are considered more suitable options for children, people with sensitive skin, and women who are pregnant. The downside of mineral sunscreens are they tend to leave a white, chalky residue.

Chemical sunscreens are easier to apply and go on clear, so there is no visible residue left on the skin. They’re also more resistant to water and sweat, and contain active ingredients that absorb UV rays, converts them into heat, and releases them before they can penetrate the skin. Unlike mineral sunscreens, chemical ones can be harsh on sensitive or dry skin, and can make conditions like eczema or rosacea worse.

DOUBLE SPF DOESN’T MEAN DOUBLE PROTECTION

Your sunscreen’s sun protection factor (SPF) determines how much protection you have from UV rays. However, the difference in the amount of protection provided by various SPFs is small. SPF 15 blocks 93% of UV rays, SPF 30 block 97% of rays, and SPF 50 blocks 98%. Experts say an SPF 30 sunscreen is sufficient and should be reapplied liberally every 2 hours.

THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A “SAFE TAN”

Broad spectrum sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays penetrate deep into the layers of our skin and cause skin cancer. They are also associated with premature skin aging by causing wrinkles and dark spots.

UVB rays have shorter wavelengths that damage the top layer of our skin. Though some may enjoy the look of a summer tan, tanning is considered a form of skin damage. Like sunburns, tanning damages our skin cells and can cause DNA mutations that lead to skin cancer.

CHOOSE WHAT WORKS BEST FOR YOU

The best and most effective sunscreen is one that you will wear. If you or a child dislike wearing sunscreen, opt to cover up with UV-resistant or long sleeve clothing and a wide-brim hat to protect the head and neck area. The sun’s rays are strongest between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., so if you plan to be outdoors during this time, be sure to dress appropriately, wear sunscreen, and find a shaded area nearby.

We all love a day of fun in the sun, so it’s important to choose a sunscreen that you are comfortable with using daily. Talk with your doctor about ways you can protect your skin from harmful UV rays, and schedule a skin check exam with a dermatologist to check for any suspicious marks or moles that could be cancerous. To find a primary care provider or dermatologist near you, call (716) 706-7112.

 

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