Scientific research has linked the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation to both skin aging and skin cancer, making daily application of your favourite sunscreen important. Sunscreens have advanced with many improvements since they first started to be used in the 1970’s. With many options on the market, it can be difficult to choose the right sunscreen. Here are some essential things to keep in mind when committing to your sunscreen.
- Look at the SPF. Sun protection factor is important in determining how effective the sunscreen is at protecting your skin from UV rays. SPF is determined in a lab under perfect conditions and with a thick application of sunscreen. For real world use, it is better to side with caution and get a higher SPF than you might think you need. Generally, an SPF of at least 30 is recommended by most dermatologists.
- Look at the UV spectrum labelling. Sunscreens were originally formulated to block UVB only, but the harmful UVA could still damage your skin. Technology has enabled sunscreens to now effectively block both UVA and UVB from the sun. Make sure your sunscreen has specific labelling to convey that it blocks both UVA and UVB or clearly states “BROAD SPECTRUM” on the bottle.
- Look for water resistance. Many sunscreens will state their water resistance on the label. For example, some might say water resistance “40 MINUTES” or “80 MINUTES”. Remember that no sunscreen is waterproof. It is recommended that you reapply sunscreen after coming out of the pool or any kind of physical exercise that makes you sweat.
- Look at the formulation. Sunscreens come in many different formulations. Sunscreens designed for the face are often in lotions and feel lighter. Sunscreens for the body often come as creams and feel heavier. Some are more moisturizing and others feel sheer and dry. Some designed for the face are also non-comedogenic, designed to keep your pores free and prevent against acne. Make sure to get a sunscreen that is suitable for your skin type. Even the best sunscreen will not protect you if you do not use it!
There are many factors to consider when choosing a sunscreen and a customized recommendation can be made for you. Your dermatologist can help you navigate optimal strategies for sun protection.