Protecting your skin from the sun is something everyone should do. Melanoma is one of the most common, and deadliest, forms of cancer. Regularly wearing sunscreen can greatly reduce your risk of developing this cancer by blocking the sun’s harmful UV rays.
There are actually two types of UV rays: UVA and UVB. UVA rays are longer and don’t show signs of a sunburn. The UVB rays are shorter and cause sunburns from overexposure. Both of these UV rays can cause cancer. Even if you don’t regularly burn in the sun, you can still develop melanoma.
Even though people are aware of these dangers, it can be difficult to know just what to look for in a sunscreen for you and your family. Some experts recently weighed in with their recommendations for picking the right sunblock.
The biggest question people have is about SPF. Many of us look for the highest SPF sunblock we can find, assuming that’s giving us the best protection. While this can be true, it does come with a warning from experts.
Many experts recommend no less than an SPF 30 sunscreen, which blocks 97 percent of UVB rays. The problem with sunscreen higher than that is that people assume it protects them longer, so they’re less likely to reapply it. That’s a problem.
No matter what type you choose, you should reapply it throughout the day. Whether it’s SPF 30 or SPF 100, you should be reapplying it throughout the day at the beach or the pool.
Experts also caution against using spray on sunscreen. It’s not that they offer less protection if applied correctly, it’s that people tend to use less when they use the spray. The lotion may be messier, but it’s easier to cover your body with the proper amount of sunblock.
There are also two ingredients consumers may want to avoid: oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate. People with sensitive skin may have an allergic reaction to these chemicals. Some studies have also claimed there’s a link between retinyl palmitate and skin tumors, but the Food and Drug Administration disputes that. In general, it’s best to look for a sunscreen that doesn’t have these ingredients.
Another word of caution is that there’s no such thing as “waterproof” sunscreen. If you’re in the water or sweating, the sunscreen is going to come off. Do not assume that waterproof sunscreen will somehow protect you throughout the day.
To keep your skin safe, experts recommend the following: sunscreen with at least SPF 30, along with zinc oxide and titanium oxide. The sunscreen will protect against the UVB rays while the zinc oxide and titanium oxide will protect against the UVA rays. They also recommend reapplying the sunscreen at least every two hours.
If you’re swimming or sweating a lot, you may want to reapply it more than that. You run a much greater risk of under-applying sunscreen than over-applying it, so don’t be stingy with the sunblock.
In most cases, the ingredients are more important than the brand. So long as your sunscreen contains the above ingredients and you apply it throughout the day, you should keep yourself and your family mostly safe from UV rays.