If you have ever been to the sunscreen aisle at your local drugstore, you know how overwhelming it can be: SPF this, UVA that and then throw in UVBs in the mix and the sunscreen confusion begins!
Choosing the Right SPF in SunscreenSPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. The higher the SPF number, the better protection against the sun's harmful UVB rays. The SPF number lets you know how much longer you can stay out of the sun without burning. For example, if it takes 15 minutes for a person to burn, an SPF 15 will allow them to stay out in the sun 15 times longer without burning.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends wearing an SPF of 15 or higher for maximum protection. SPF is available in levels from 2 to 60. Does highest mean the best protection? Not necessarily. An SPF of 50 only provides 1% to 2% more protection than an SPF 30.
UVA and UVB ProtectionThe label of the sunscreen will indicate the UVA or UVB protection.
UVA rays are responsible for the aging effect of the sun; however, overexposure to UVA rays can cause skin cancer.
UVB rays are responsible for sunburns and skin cancer.
Choose a product that states, "UVA/UVB," protection or has "broad spectrum" protectant.
Waterproof vs. Water ResistantIf you are looking for a sunscreen to use while in the water, choose a sunscreen that is "waterproof" or "water resistant."
"Waterproof" sunscreen should provide protection in the water for 80 minutes, while "water resistant" provides only 40 minutes of protection.
U. S. Food and Drug Administration. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Office of Cosmetics and Colors Fact Sheet June 27, 2000;