How To Choose the Right Sunscreen

July 16, 2021

By Matthew Pruitt

Unless you’re living under a bridge (in which case, never mind, this doesn’t concern you anyway), you’ve heard all about the perils of unprotected sun exposure.

And so you’re probably buying sunscreen, although you might not be clear on what, exactly, you should be buying.

Today’s manufacturers are serving up all sorts of lotions designed to keep you safe and smooth-skinned and smelling like coconuts or not if coconuts aren’t your thing. But which to choose?

Here’s what you should look for:

Broad-spectrum sunscreen.

The words Broad Spectrum means you’re getting protection against both ultraviolet B (UVB, a.k.a. the burning rays) and ultraviolet A (UVA, the make-you-old-and-give-you-skin-cancer ones).

Today most brands offer a broad spectrum, but it’s a good idea to check the label and ensure you’re getting complete protection from a broad-spectrum sunscreen.

What’s does SPF mean?

Everyone knows that SPF is the amount of protection you get from the sun in general. But, how much protection does your skin need?

Everyone can start by looking for a sunscreen with at least 15 SPF. That is a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15. SPF indicates how many times you could multiply your typical time in the sun before burning (coated with SPF 15, someone who’d fry in 20 minutes could stay out 15 times as long, or about 5 hours). Technically speaking, SPF applies only to UVB rays, but if a product is labeled Broad Spectrum (see above), that number goes for both UVB and UVA.

How long is my sunscreen good in the medicine cabinet?

While some sunscreen products come with an expiration date, others don’t. But the FDA requires all sunscreens to remain stable and effective for three years after they’re bottled (if you don’t see a date, contact the manufacturer, who can tell you the production date based on the numeric code printed on the bottle).

How long does it stay on in the water?

The degree of water resistance is essential. Even if you’re not heading to the pool or beach, it’s a good idea to buy sunscreen that’s designed to stay on your skin if you get wet (or sweaty).

Many sunscreens claim to be effective all day. Sunscreen labeled water resistant has been shown in studies to work for 40 minutes. So be sure to re-apply generously every hour or so when you are in the sun for extended periods.

We recommend wearing sunscreen on your face, neck, and chest every day. Days when the sun is hiding behind the clouds, can do damage to your skin. The Winter sun can damage your skin. So, wear your sunscreen daily.

Matthew Pruitt

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