Today, we're going to talk briefly about how to choose a sunscreen. There are a lot of sunscreen products out there that are available, but what can you do to insure that you get the best sunscreen product for yourself? My suggestion to patients is first, search for a sunscreen that is an SPF 30 or greater, and an SPF 100 is not much better than an SPF 30. SPF is on what we term a logarithmic scale. This breaks down to an SPF 15 having about 95% protection and an SPF 30 having about 97% protection. Anything above 30 is probably not very beneficial. Second, look at the active ingredients of the sunscreen. The three broad spectrum best active ingredients are going to be zinc, titanium and avobenzone. Zinc and titanium are organic, natural sunscreens. Avobenzone is a synthetically created molecule. Zinc and titanium will protect as long as they are on the skin. On the other hand, avobenzone and other synthetically created compounds will only protect for a certain period of time, usually one to two hours. The way that they actually work is to absorb ultra violet radiation which changes the shape of the molecule. Once the molecule has changed shape, it is no longer effective at protecting you against ultra violet radiation.

So some general guidelines for sunscreens include applying 30 minutes before you go out in the sun, reapplying every two to three hours. Think of a shot glass. About one ounce of sunscreen is needed to cover your face and your arms and obviously, more if you're covering your body, your legs and your back. And be sure to reapply approximately every two to three hours, more often if you have excessive sweating or swimming. Remember, there is no product that is sweat-proof, water-proof, or a complete sun block. The best prevention, though, is simply staying out of the sun. Take advantage of shade. Stay out during the high sun times, 10:00 am to about 4:00 p.m. Wear clothing, long sleeve shirts, long pants, big hats; and make sure to apply sunscreen over the areas that you don't think about, your ears, your nose, your neck, the back of your neck. And if you're wearing flip flops, for instance, or sandals, be sure and apply it to the tops of your feet.

Choosing the Best Sunscreen Product

Doctor D.J. Verret discusses how to choose a sunscreen including SPF protection. Active ingredients to look for include zinc, titanium and avobezone.