Tips for Selecting Sunscreen
Summer is almost here! As we make our summer plans, we might be evaluating our stock of sun protection tools. While the sun does cause our bodies to produce vitamin D, which is needed for good health, we know that too much time in the sun can lead to sunburns and more negative effects of sun exposure like skin cancer. A 2018 study from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that fewer than 18% of older adults use sunscreen on a regular basis.
We can get the vitamin D we need from eating salmon, canned tuna, mushrooms or other vitamin D-fortified foods. Hats, sunglasses, protective clothing, shade and sunscreen are all tools we might use to keep our skin safe from the sun’s damaging UV rays. However—only one of those tools can expire! And these expiration dates are serious. The SPF—or sun protection factor—of sunscreen can break down over time. Using expired sunscreen can leave you with an unexpected and unpleasant burn. It’s best to always check your sunscreen’s expiration date to make sure the active ingredients are still working.
That might leave you looking for a new sunscreen to keep you safe during your summer activities. Take care while shopping for your next favorite sunscreen. The Food and Drug Administration recommends SPF 15, but the American Academy of Dermatology recommends at least SPF 30 every day. A study published in JAMA Dermatology found that consumers who do use sunscreen are likely to be confused by labels as they try to select the best product. So what should consumers look out for as they shop for summer skin care?
- Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen, which means it protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
- Buy your sun protection products directly from a company, retailer, or dermatologist you trust to avoid getting counterfeit or expired products.
- Remember that “water resistant” does not mean “waterproof.”
- Pick a sunscreen that is at least SPF 30, which screens out 97% of UVB rays. From there, the difference in SPF is small. For example, SPF 100 screens out 99% of UVB rays. No sunscreen can block 100% of UVB rays.
Ultimately, the best kind of sunscreen is whichever one we are most comfortable using frequently. If you have a dermatologist, ask for samples so you can try before you buy. And whatever you choose, remember to cover all exposed skin with about an amount that would fill a shot glass, and reapply every two hours. When it comes to avoiding sun damage, it’s best to layer protective factors like shade, hats, and protective clothing and not rely on sunscreen alone.
The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Talk to your dermatologist or other health care provider about the skin protection that is right for you.