There is a wide variety of sunscreens available, including lotions, sprays, creams, gels, wipes, and lip balms, to name a few. These topical products absorb or reflect some, but not all, of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation on the skin to help protect against sun damage. But which one is right for you? Our practice can help you find the best sunscreen for your needs and lifestyle.
SPF – what’s in a number?
SPF (Sun Protection Factor) provides an indication of how effectively a sunscreen can protect your skin from the ultraviolet-B (UVB) light – the rays that cause sunburn and skin cancer. A higher SPF number represents a higher level of protection. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends sunscreen products with a sun protection factor of at least 30.
Today, sunscreens with SPFs as high as 100 are available, but a higher number doesn’t necessarily mean more protection. For instance, many people believe a sunscreen with SPF 45 would give 3 times as much protection as one with an SPF of 15. This is not true. SPF 15 sunscreens filter out about 93% of UVB rays, while SPF 30 sunscreens filter out about 97%. SPF 50 sunscreens filter approximately 98% while SPF 100 provides 99%. The higher you go, the smaller the difference becomes. No sunscreen can provide complete protection.
Apply Sunscreen Properly
Regardless of the SPF rating, sunscreen should be reapplied often for optimal protection. A majority of people do not apply a layer of sunscreen thickly, so the actual protection they get is less. For best results, most sunscreens must be reapplied at least every two hours, more often if you are swimming or sweating. Apply sunscreen generously, paying close attention to face, ears, arms, neck and all other areas exposed to the sun. Sunscreens do expire, so always check the expiration date to make sure it is still effective.