Understanding Your SPF

You know you need it if you want to protect your skin from wrinkling, skin cancer and other unwanted complications, but how much do you really know about your sunscreen? There are numerous brands and types of sunscreen to choose from, and it can be difficult to know which one is best for you. Understanding how to read the label on your sunscreen can ensure your skin has the protection it should from sun damage.

UVA or UVB Protection?

Although the specific kinds of damage that each causes has been debated over the years, it is best to choose a sunscreen that protects your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. Ultraviolet A (long-wave) and Ultraviolet B (shortwave) rays can both penetrate the atmosphere and play a significant role in conditions such as premature skin aging, eye damage, skin cancers and lowered immune system.

Sunblock vs. Sunscreen

Sunblocks refer to products that physically block against UVA and UVB rays. These are those with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, and they are considered your best defense. Chemical sunscreens, such as oxybenzone and PABA, are colorless and use ingredients to filter and reduce UV rays. A chemical sunscreen will break down under sun exposure and will need to be reapplied more frequently.

Which SPF?

The SPF stands for sun protection factor. This number ranges from 2 to 65 and refers to the product’s ability to block out the harmful rays of the sun. SPF 30 means that an average person’s skin will take 30 times longer before it is damaged than if the person was not wearing sunscreen. Most dermatologists recommend that you use sunscreen of at least SPF 15 or greater every day, year-round. If you intend to be in the sun more than 20-30 minutes a day, you should wear sunscreen of at least SPF 30.
Not all sunscreens are created equal, and not all skin types react to sun the same way. What works for your friend may not work for you. Therefore, it is always best to ask your dermatologist which sunscreen product is most effective for your specific skin type. Protecting your skin from the sun should never be taken lightly. Although you may not see the damage in your early years, you will likely regret your tanning days as you get older. Just one incident of blistering sunburn as a child can increase your risk for skin cancer!

Posted on behalf of Olansky Dermatology & Aesthetics