You know you need to wear a sunscreen to protect your skin in order to decrease your chances of sun damage or skin cancer. What you may not know is what you should be looking for in a sunscreen. VineVera has created a comprehensive guide on everything you need to know about sunscreen to help you best protect your skin.
What is SPF?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and is used to determine a product’s ability to be able to prevent the UVB rays from damaging the skin. You may think that the higher an SPF the better, and in some ways that is true. However, SPF does not increase proportionally to the numbers stated on the bottle. For instance, a low SPF of 2 actually provides protection against about 50% of the sun’s rays while an SPF of 34 provides protection against 97%. So, while higher SPFs do block more of the sun’s rays, you don’t always need to choose the highest one available to get adequate protection. Dermatologists and other skin care experts suggest that you use an SPF of no lower than 15% to best protect your skin.
What does Broad Spectrum mean?
Broad spectrum on a sunscreen label indicates that it protects against both UVA and UVB radiation. Dermatologists always recommend getting a broad spectrum sunscreen. Broad spectrum ingredients to be on the lookout for include PABA or PABA esters, as these protect against UVB radiation. Additionally, check for ingredients such as salicylates or cinnamates as these absorb UVB rays.
What do Waterproof and Water-Resistant mean?
You want your sunscreen to remain on your skin in order to provide lasting protection against the sun. The terms waterproof and water-resistant are indicative of how long a sunscreen will last against water or perspiration. For a sunscreen to include these words, it must be able to provide protection for a certain amount of time after exposure water or from profuse sweating. A water-resistant sunscreen is one that maintains it’s SPF level for 40 minutes after exposure to water or sweat. To be labeled waterproof, a sunscreen must maintain the SPF level for 80 minutes after water or sweat.
What is the Difference Between Sunscreen and Sunblock?
Sunscreens fall into one of two categories: physical sunscreen and chemical sunscreen. Chemical sunscreens provide protection by acting as filters that reduce the amount of UV ray penetration that your skin receives. A physical sunscreen, also known as sunblock, works by physically blocking UV radiation. Physical sunscreens contain either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide as the active ingredients.
Now that you know what to look for on the label of a sunscreen, you should also be aware of how much and how often you should apply sunscreen. A general guideline is to use about one ounce of sunscreen, or the equivalent to a shot glass, for exposed areas of your body. You can adjust the amount as necessary depending on how much skin you’re showing. Physical sunscreens work immediately upon application, but if you are using a chemical sunscreen you must apply approximately 20 minutes prior to sun exposure. Dermatologists recommend reapplying sunscreen every two hours or more frequently if you plan on being immersed in water.