Summer is in full swing– which means I get a lot of questions regarding sunscreens. There are so many varieties of sunscreens that it sometimes seems as if we are following a confusing maze. I’m here to provide the basics of what you need to know to protect your skin and how to pick the best sunscreen for you and your family.
“Broad Spectrum” indicates that the particular brand blocks UVB as wells as UVA. UVB (also known as “UVBurn”) rays cause sunburn and skin cancer, while UVA (known as “UVAge”) rays penetrate deeper into the skin, causing skin aging, cell damage, sun spots, and wrinkles by breaking down collagen and elastin. It is important to block both of them, and SPF only indicates the UVB protective power.
Considering that SPF was determined using experiments with 2 mg/cm2 of sunscreen, (which is way more than anyone uses in real life- we generally use less than 1/3 of what we are supposed to), we are actually getting less protection than we think. Because of that, I usually recommend an SPF of 30 or more one with the label “Broad Spectrum,” and to reapply every 80 to 90 minutes. So why not use SPF 100? There is virtually no benefit in protection above SPF 50, so much that the FDA proposed banning the labeling of higher SPFs, as it can be misleading to the public. SPF 100 blocks 99% of harmful UVB rays, while properly applied SPF 50 blocks 98% of the same rays. People are more likely to misuse sunscreens labeled with higher SPF and expose themselves to the sun for longer periods of time.
This is a common question I receive daily- and again, my goal is to get my patients to wear a sunscreen- doesn’t matter which kind so pick the one you will actually use. In our office, we classify our sunscreens by the following types: everyday use and sporting use.
Yes, you should be wearing SPF every day. A majority of our sun exposure comes from driving in the car, running errands, etc. Everyday sunscreens should feel light- like a moisturizer. Our most popular daily sunscreen is Elta UV Clear- it’s so lightweight and smooth that it’s the most popular product among our male patients. Once applied, feels like you’re wearing nothing. Elta UV Elements or Elta UV Facial is more popular among our female patients as these are slightly more moisturizing and with the added benefit of being tinted- which means it can give added coverage with makeup, or replace the makeup altogether.
Intense exercise or lounging at the beach can cause you to sweat excessively which means a water-resistant SPF is a no brainer. The key to these sunscreens are to reapply frequently and couple it with sun protective measures such as hats, SPF clothing, and seeking shade during peak hours of UV intensity. We keep Elta UV Sport and Elta UV Pure by the case, especially during the summer months as it is in high demand. Another reason we love the UV Pure, is that it is safe for all ages including babies.
Unfortunately, sunscreen can’t completely prevent sunburns, blisters and skin cancer. But you can give your skin some added protection by wearing: lip balm with SPF 30 or higher, a hat with a wide brim. wrap-around sunglasses with UV protection, a long-sleeved shirt or special sun-protective clothing. You also can protect your skin by seeking shade from the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. That’s when the sun’s harmful UV rays are strongest.
Remember, no sunscreen provides 100% protection from the sun. But by taking these added precautions and taking the time to apply — and reapply — sunscreen properly, you can greatly curb your chances for sunburns and skin cancer. Sunscreen not only prevents skin cancer, but it is also the best anti-aging ingredient on the market.