05 Jun What Is the Best Type of Sunscreen?
Sunscreen is a must-have in the summer, even if it’s overcast outside or you have “naturally tan” skin. When applied properly, sunscreen is the best defense against UV damage, one of the leading causes of skin cancer as well as the major culprit in prematurely aging skin.
But all sunscreens are not created equal. With so many different types and so many different strengths, it can be difficult to identify which sunscreen you should use—and where and when you should apply it.
The Types of Sunscreen and How They Work
Sunscreen, sunblock, and sun tan lotion: is there a difference? Sunscreen and sunblock are two names for the same product—a topical lotion, spray or gel that protects against UV rays. Sun tan lotion, on the other hand, can either mean sunscreen or a type of lotion that purports to accelerate or encourage skin to tan. Tanning oils and sun tan lotions such as these generally provide little to no UV protection, and should not be used as a way to protect the skin. Always read the labels and ingredients carefully to know what the product should be use for.
Sunscreen works by absorbing, scattering or reflecting UVA and UVB rays. Organic ingredients such as para-aminobenzoic acid and avobenzone absorb UV light, while inorganic ingredients such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide reflect and scatter it.
Sunscreen is often measured in SPF, or sun protection factor. SPF measures how long it would take for the sun to burn skin with the applied sunscreen compared to skin without it. For example, if it takes 20 minutes for the sun to burn unprotected skin, an SPF 30 sunscreen would protect you 30 times longer, or about 10 hours.
Though helpful in determining which sunscreen to buy, it does not mean that you should only apply sunscreen after having been in the sun for 10 hours; sunscreen should be reapplied at least once every two hours to ensure continuous protection.
SPF is measured based on the time it takes to burn skin, which is the result of UVB exposure; it does not mention UVA rays, which penetrate deeper into the skin and also contribute to the development of skin cancers and aging skin. Broad-spectrum sunscreen protects skin from both UV rays, not just the one that causes a sunburn.
Water-resistant sunscreen will remain effective after 40 minutes of swimming or sweating, but it should still be reapplied after doing so.
How to Choose a Sunscreen
Sunscreens are available in creams, lotions, gels, sticks and sprays, but any sunscreen you choose should be a broad-spectrum sunscreen as it will protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays and hold up against light sweating. Someone who will spend most of the day indoors can safely use SPF 15, while those that spend a majority of the time outdoors should use water-resistant, SPF 30 and higher sunscreen and reapply frequently.
- Sunscreen for the Face
Dermatologists recommend that you apply sunscreen to your face every day. Those that wear makeup may rely on foundations or moisturizers that contain sunblock, but these products may not provide adequate protection, especially if you will be out in the sun for extended periods of time.
Creams, lotions and sticks are the easiest way to apply sunscreen to the delicate skin on the face. Sunscreens made specifically for facial skin may also be formulated to be non-comedogenic, meaning they will not clog pores. Remember to apply sunscreen to lips, as they can also burn.
- Sunscreen for the Body
Sprays are one of the most convenient sunscreens to apply over a large area, but it can be difficult to ensure complete and even coverage. It is easier to do so with creams and lotions, but they can be sticky and take longer to dry.
Even if you’re armed with the best sunscreen and a strict application regimen, it’s still advisable to avoid too much exposure to the sun. Wear a hat or cover exposed skin, especially during the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are at its strongest. With the right sunscreen, you can ensure your skin stays beautiful.