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Making Sense of Sunscreen

If you’ve shopped for sunscreen lately you may have noticed that there are nearly as many different types as there are sands of grain on the beach.

Because most health care providers agree that sunscreen is an important tool in reducing the risk of skin cancer and premature aging caused by the sun, it’s important to know how to pick the right one.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends choosing a sunscreen that states the following on the label:

  • Broad spectrum – This means a sunscreen protects the skin from ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, both of which can cause cancer.
  • SPF 30 or higher – This indicates how well a sunscreen protects against sunburn. The number tells you how long the sun’s UV radiation would take to redden your skin when using the product exactly as directed versus the amount of time without any sunscreen. For example, an SPF of 30 would take you 30 times longer to burn than if you weren’t wearing any sunscreen.
  • Water resistant – While sunscreens can be “water resistant” or “very water resistant,” sunscreens are not waterproof or sweat proof and need to be reapplied.

Most adults need about 1 ounce of sunscreen (enough to fill a shot glass) to fully cover their body.

  • Remember, it’s important not to rely on high-SPF sunscreens alone. No one single method of sun defense can protect you perfectly. Sunscreen is just one very important part of a strategy that should include seeking shade and covering exposed parts of the body, including wide-brimmed hats and UV-blocking sunglasses.