6 Tips for Choosing the Best Sunscreen

Written by WD Staff, Skin Care Specialists on March 24, 2014 No Comments

apply sunscreen

With spring and summer just around the corner now is a great time to start planning your summer skin regimen. Whether you choose to go for a hike, hit the lake or beach, or play outdoor sports your skin will get hammered by dangerous UV rays. One of the most important items on your list should be a high quality sunscreen.

How Sunscreen Works

Most sunscreens on the market are composed of both organic (natural) and inorganic (synthetic) chemical ingredients that, when applied to the skin either deflects or absorbs UV radiation:

  • Inorganic chemicals like titanium dioxide work to reflect UV rays when applied to the skin. Think of this as the first line of defense in sun protection as radiation cannot have a negative effect if it’s not absorbed by the skin.
  • Organic chemicals like oxybenzone and avobenzone act to absorb UV light, slowly breaking down UV radiation and releasing it as energy (heat) before it can affect the skin.

The Lowdown on SPF

SPF is short for “Sun Protection Factor”, a scale of measurement that determines how effective the sunscreen is and refers to how well it performs in providing protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.

While less intense than UVB rays, UVA rays account for most of the radiation that reaches earth. UVA penetrates deeper into the skin and plays a key role in skin wrinkling and aging (photo aging). While UVA radiation was once thought to not cause cancer, recent studies do confirm UVA contributes to skin cancer development.

UVB radiation is the primary cause of sunburn as it tends to damage the superficial epidermal layers of the skin. UVB also plays a key role in the development of skin cancer.

Even with the proper application of sunscreen some level of UVA and UVB radiation does penetrate the skin. The SPF number refers to how long it will take for a person’s skin to become red from radiation exposure. For example, applying an SPF 15 sunscreen would prevent your skin from getting red for approximately 15 times longer than usual, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Thus if your skin would normally get red after 10 minutes of exposure the SPF protection would increase that time to 150 minutes.

Six Tips for Choosing the Best Sunscreen

  • Choose a sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays and has a high SPF.
  • Opt for a water resistant sunscreen if you’ll be active in the sun.
  • To protect your face without clogging your pores wear sunscreen specifically made for the facial area.
  • Opt for a sunscreen free of the chemical PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid)
  • Select a water-based sunscreen if you have oily skin.
  • Always check the expiration date.

Other Suggestions in Addition to Sunscreen

It’s also good to consider following these additional tips in order to protect your skin from the sun:

  • Avoid being outside during the sun’s peak hours between 10am and 6pm.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Wear sun protective clothing.
  • Stay well hydrated.
  • See your dermatologist for an annual skin check.
  • In addition to a visual screening by a dermatologist, Mole Mapping can help identify problem areas.

WD Staff

A united group of skin care specialists from Westlake Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery, Austin's leader in Dermatology and Plastic Surgery. Articles posted under WD staff are authored through combined contributions from our entire team, including Plastic Surgeons, Dermatologists, Aestheticians, Physician Assistants, Aesthetic Nurses, and Patient Coordinators.

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