What is SPF and how do I choose the right sunscreen?

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What is SPF?

It’s August, the sun it still high in the sky and the last few weeks of summer are at hand! All summer, you have been applying sunscreen and taking care of your skin. But, what exactly is SPF? SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and is the chemical element delaying the amount of time it takes for the sun’s UV radiation to affect your skin. The application of sunscreen or sunblock can prevent UVA and UVB rays from negatively affecting our largest organ, the skin. You can remember the difference between UVA and UVB by associating UVA with aging factors and UVB with burning factors. While each type of the sun’s rays can cause harm to your skin, together they can cause sunburn, premature aging and skin cancer, including melanoma. UVA rays are less filterable and can even come through the glass of a window; therefore, it is important to look for a sunscreen that is labeled broad spectrum. A broad spectrum sunscreen will block both UVA and UVB rays, protecting against both aging and burning.

How Do I Choose the Right Sunscreen?

Generally, consumers think that a high SPF will prevent more Ultraviolet rays from reaching the skin, but it is a misunderstanding that a higher SPF will give you more protection from cancer and premature aging. Research shows the difference between a sunscreen with SPF 45 and one with SPF 100 is very minimal; there is only a 1% difference in how much these sunscreens actually protect the skin. The key to safe sunscreen use is reapplication. We recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF between 30 and 50 and reapplying it every two hours. A general amount of sunscreen to apply is one ounce and yes, even on cloudy days. Remember, water reflects the sun’s rays as well. Whenever you plan on being outside, apply your sunscreen!

A commonly asked question is, “should I use different sunscreens for different areas of my body?” The answer: it depends. There are sunscreens that have been designed for sensitive areas like the face and eyes or and hairy areas like the chest or scalp. You can also find sunscreens that are designed for babies’ sensitive skin. Health and beauty companies have recently advertised products like foundation, moisturizer and concealer that have SPF formulated into the product. There are water resistant sunscreens on the market too for those beach days and days when you will be sweating, especially in the August heat. So really, if you have high quality sunscreens for different areas of your body, you can feel good about using them. Generally, however, a broad spectrum sunscreen is a great choice for everyone and can be applied all over the body. It will likely be easier to remember and reapply if you minimize the different types of product you use.

When looking to choose the right sunscreen for you, it is important to remember that reapplication is key to solid sun protection. Trends come and go, but you will have your skin forever. If you notice that you’ve developed any new dark spots, you need to see your dermatologist for a skin examination. Protecting your skin from skin cancer, age spots and sunburns rests within a good sunscreen! If you want to keep your skin looking young and healthy and prevent skin cancers, like melanoma, you should be applying sunscreen with SPF every day.When looking to choose the right sunscreen for you, it is important to remember that reapplication is key to solid sun protection. Trends come and go, but you will have your skin forever. If you notice that you’ve developed any new dark spots, you need to see your dermatologist for a skin examination. Protecting your skin from skin cancer, age spots and sunburns rests within a good sunscreen! If you want to keep your skin looking young and healthy and prevent skin cancers, like melanoma, you should be applying sunscreen with SPF every day.

Article by
Plainfield Dermatologist