Skin Care Products Sunscreen

Because the sun can cause significant skin damage, such as premature aging and skin cancer, properly protecting our skin from the sun is key to staying healthy and warding off potentially fatal conditions. Along with minimizing your time in the sun and wearing protective clothing, regularly applying sunscreen is the best way to prevent skin damage.

What to Look for in Sunscreens and Sunblocks

When it comes to choosing one of the many sunscreens on the market, you may be overwhelmed by the variety of choices. How do you know which sunscreen is the best for you (or your children)? As you are browsing among different types of sunscreens, weigh out the:

  • Form of the sunscreen: Sunscreens can come in lotion, spray or gel forms. Similarly, some sunscreens, namely those made for the face, come in oil-free forms.While the form of sunscreen won’t affect whether or not that product offers sun protection, it will affect how comfortable you are wearing and applying it. Choose a form that fits your personal preference so that you are more apt to use it.
  • Sunscreen’s SPF: SPF, which stands for Sun Protection Factor, tells you how much of the sun’s rays that sunscreen can block. The higher the SPF, the more protection that sunscreen offers. SPFs for sunscreens range from 2 to 60.While children and people with lighter, more sensitive skin should always opt for sunscreens with higher SPFs, anyone looking for adequate protection from the sun should get a sunscreen that has an SPF no lower than 15. Be sure to talk to your pediatrician if you are thinking about applying sunscreen to infants under 6 months old.
  • UVA and UVB blockage: The sun’s UVA and UVB rays are typically responsible for causing sun damage, such as wrinkles and skin cancer. When choosing a sunscreen, make sure that the label states that that particular sunscreen will block out UVA and UVB rays. If you are unsure of whether or not a certain sunscreen will adequately block UVA and UVB rays, check the ingredients: Effective UVA and UVB blockers should contain avobenzone, titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.
  • Water resistance versus waterproof: Because the sun naturally causes us to sweat, opting for a water resistant or waterproof sunscreen is a good idea, whether or not you plan to swim, exercise or sweat excessively. While water resistant sunscreens will protect you from the sun for up to 40 minutes in the water, waterproof sunblocks offer up to 80 minutes of sun protection when in the water.

Sunscreens versus Sunblocks

Both sunscreens and sunblocks can protect you from the sun in different ways:

  • Sunblocks provide a barrier that effectively reflects the sun’s harmful rays of the skin.
  • Sunscreens act as an absorbent factor, taking in the harmful UVA and UVB rays without letting them penetrate the skin.

 

Tips for Using Sunscreen

Correctly applying sunscreen is just as important as choosing the right sunscreen for you. In fact, your sunscreen won’t offer nearly the protection it should if you don’t properly apply (and reapply) it. Here are some tips for applying sunscreen:

  • Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before you plan on being in the sun, so as to let the sunscreen’s active ingredients effectively penetrate your pores.
  • Apply sunscreen to dry, clean skin so that your skin can absorb the largest possible amount of the sunscreen.
  • Make sure to spread sunscreen over the your nose, neck and ears, all parts of the body that are generally forgotten when applying sunscreen. These are typically the most common body parts that develop skin cancer.
  • Reapply sunscreen after swimming or about every 2 hours.
  • Wear sunscreen even when the sun isn’t out. You can still get sunburned on cloudy, overcast days.

Resources

Canadian Cancer Society (updated May 23, 2007). Using Sunscreen. Retrieved October 30, 2007 from the Canadian Cancer Society Web site: http://www.cancer.ca/ccs/internet/standard/0,3182,3172_1046449084_1049640810_langId-en,00.html.

MedicineNet.com (updated August 7, 2006). Making Sense of Sunscreen Products. Retrieved October 30, 2007 from the MedicineNet.com Web site: http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=46376.