Shopping for sunscreen

When shopping for sunscreen, it is common for consumers to search for a product with the highest SPF. One would think that a higher SPF correlates with more protection, but this is not the case. SPF is only referring to that product’s ability to block ultraviolet B rays, or UVB rays, but not ultraviolet A rays, or UVA rays. What’s the difference? UVB rays cause sunburns and UVA rays are more closely linked to deeper skin damage and aging. However, both contribute to the risk of skin cancer.

So what should you be looking for when shopping for SPF? On the ingredient panel that is found on the back of the product or box, look for the active ingredients at the top. Some of the ingredients that you may see are Octylcrylene, Avobenzone, Octinoxate, Octisalate, and Oxybenzone. These are chemical sunscreens. Once applied, you should wait a period of 30 minutes before going outside to ensure optimal protection. Chemical sunscreens absorb and some scatter the sun’s rays and are not always the most stable ingredient. These types of sunscreen also offer a more “cosmetically elegant” feel.

The other type of active ingredients you may see are Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide, these are physical sunscreens. Physical sunscreens deflect the sun’s rays and provide immediate protection. 5% Zinc Oxide truly is the best option as far as protecting your skin because this ingredient protects against the entire spectrum of UVB and UVA rays. Because Zinc Oxide can be a thicker formulation, some sunscreens may have a more opaque look. There are other options available, such as micronized zinc that will offer the same benefits without the heavy feel.

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