How to Select a Sunscreen

DID YOU KNOW…Sunscreen is such an important topic of concern that Congress passed a bill called the Sunscreen Innovation Act last July.1

While the worst of summer heat is behind us, we still need protection from summer’s blazing sun rays.  When you pick up a bottle of sunscreen, do you ever wonder what SPF, UVA or UVB means?  What about the numbers that follow SPF, such as 15, 30, etc?  Is it even necessary to wear it?  How much should be applied?  How often should you reapply and under what conditions?  Do you simply find it complicated to select a sunscreen?  Well, you are not alone.  Many well-meaning consumers make this decision with a shrug of the shoulders and give it their best guess.

It’s a common misconception that the chance of getting sunburned on cloudy days is less, but the sun’s damaging UV rays can pass through clouds!  Powerful ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays, which are partially absorbed by the ozone layer, mostly affect the surface of the skin and are the primary cause of sunburn.  Ultraviolet-A (UVA) rays are not absorbed by the ozone layer, can pass deeper into the skin than UVB rays, and heavily contribute to premature aging.

The sun protection factor (SPF) describes how long a product will protect skin when correctly applied.  For example, fair-skinned people begin to burn in about 15 minutes of being exposed to the sun.  So, SPF 15 sunscreen allows 15 times longer before being burned, or about 225 minutes. SPF 30 sunscreen should last about 450 minutes (30 x 15 minutes = 450).

Xubian Wellness & Acne Clinic, P.C., recommends its clients wear broad-spectrum sunscreen, whether or not they are fair-skinned, and reapply every 2 hours when outdoors and after swimming or sweating.  The use of tanning beds is strongly discouraged as they emit both UVA and UVB rays.

Once you’ve selected a sunscreen, make sure to apply it correctly.  Many people do not apply enough sunscreen to gain the expected amount of protection for any given SPF.  Typically, a shot-glass size (1 oz.) is sufficient to cover the body.  This means a 6 oz. bottle of sunscreen should only last for about 4–6 applications.  As a suggestion, apply approximately a teaspoon amount to the scalp, face and each arm.  Apply a 2-teaspoon amount to the torso and each leg.  Be certain to include both the hands and feet!



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