You might not know this BUT you should be wearing sunscreen. Right now. Unless the moon is out, you should be wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least 30 SPF or higher. Even if it’s raining outside, the sun is still out and your skin is still vulnerable to sun damage. In fact, every week we get about 8 hours of unintentional sun exposure.
You might be confused by all those labels or overwhelmed by so many choices and just don’t know which sunscreen to choose. It’s hard to navigate the sunscreen aisle at the store but knowing a few basic terms can help.
For your daily routine, look for a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30 to protect your skin and be sure to apply it thoroughly. Most sunscreens “fail” because we don’t apply enough of it. Most people use only half of what is recommended. During physical activities such as swimming or running, a higher SPF might be necessary. When using sunscreens labeled “water resistant” it’s still important to follow label directions and reapply as indicated.
Broad-spectrum, a term you will see frequently on sunscreen bottles, means that the sunscreen works to protect your skin from both types of UV light: UVA and UVB. Ultraviolet A (UVA) rays are the terrible ones that age us. They reach the dermis and wreak havoc on our collagen and elastin. They cause our skin to prematurely age, causing wrinkling and age spots. Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays are the rays that are responsible for burning us. These rays are out year-round, winter and summer. Both UVA and UVB rays can cause skin cancer so it’s always important to wear a sunscreen labeled broad-spectrum to get protection from both types of UV rays.
Some sunscreens are labeled as either “physical” or “chemical” and this can cause even more confusion. Physical sunscreens protect your skin by acting as a barrier. They sit on top of the skin and work by deflecting and scattering damaging UV rays away from the skin. Imagine there being a cloth of protection on your skin and when the rays hit it, they bounce off. Many people are familiar with the white “ghosting effect” experienced with physical sunscreens and shy away from using them for this reason. But many of the new formulations of physical sunscreens are quite pleasant to use and provide excellent protection. Chemical sunscreens work differently in that they absorb the UV ray and chemically change it before bouncing it off.
There are many types of sunscreens on the market and now that you understand a little bit more about them, you should be able to find one that’s perfect for you. Pariser Dermatology sells great quality sunscreens in many different formulations and for many different skin types. Our expert staff is available to answer questions and help guide you to a product that best meets your needs. Ultimately, regardless of where you purchase your sunscreen, the best and most effective sunscreen will be the one that you will wear regularly and according to label directions.