Choosing the best sunscreen can be a bit overwhelming. There are so many and they all claim to work better than the others. Still, it’s important to know which sunscreen addresses your particular skin type and exposure requirements because not all sunscreens are created equal. Some are designed to scatter the sunlight before it penetrates into the skin. Others absorb ultraviolet light rays in order to thwart sunburn and permanent skin damage.
Sunscreens contain various sun protection factors (SPF) that protect against the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays. The SPF refers to the product’s ability to screen or block out the harmful rays of the sun. UVA is deep penetrating ultraviolet light that is responsible for skin aging and wrinkles – including cancer. UVB is ultraviolet light that causes sunburns and the type of cell damage directly linked to skin cancer. Both UVA and UVB have mutagenic effects and are, therefore, damaging to the skin.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a water resistant sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or greater to prevent sunburn and skin cancer. For example, an SPF of 30 allows the consumer to be exposed to the sun 30 times longer than he or she normally can without sunscreen before burning. Higher SPF sunscreens are recommended for people with very fair skin or a genetic predisposition for skin cancer. Reapply the sunscreen every 2 hours during prolonged sun exposure or during excessive sweating or swimming. The FDA no longer allows labels such as “sweat proof or waterproof.” Instead water resistant or very water resistant labels are allowed indicating that the product protects against the sun during swimming or sweating for 40 or 80 minutes respectively.
Sunscreens may claim broad-spectrum or multi-spectrum protection. Either way, the UVA/UVB notation on the label signifies protection against both damaging forms of ultraviolet light. The sunscreen must also be photo stable, meaning that it won’t degrade when exposed to the sunlight.
Before you choose any particular sunscreen it won’t hurt to do a little research into the product. Better yet, talk with a qualified dermatologist to find out which sunscreen works best for you. The goal is protection and prevention. They are your first line of defense against premature aging and skin cancer.
Drs. Diane Walder, Cynthia Golomb and Stacy Chimento are board certified Miami dermatologists with offices located at 1111 Kane Concourse, Suite 100, Bay Harbor Islands, FL. Call (305) 866-2177 for a personal consultation.