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Ask Accordia: Last week I went to the store to buy sunscreen, but was overwhelmed by all the different brands, SPFs and more. Help; how do I choose?
You are right – the sunscreen aisle at our local stores can be overwhelming with so many options available. Choosing the right sunscreen matters, especially when you are out in the sun.
Hopefully, we can help you make sense of it all to protect you and your fun in the sun.
First, let us break down UVA and UVB rays – both important in sun exposure, and they both do harm. Ultraviolet A (UVA) is associated with skin aging, such as wrinkles and tanning. Ultraviolet B (UVB) is associated with skin burning and can cause you to develop skin cancer.
Now, let us talk about sunscreens. To protect against UVB and UVA rays, look for products that mention “broad spectrum” on the container or label. Purchasing sunscreen with this notation is the best choice.
Also, look for “water-resistant” sunscreen – this is especially important if you are planning to beat the heat in a pool or swimming hole. According to the Food and Drug Administration guidelines, Water Resistant means the product is effective for up to 40 minutes in water, and Very Water Resistant means it is effective for up to 80 minutes in water. This means the sunscreen protects while swimming or sweating up to the time listed on the label.
SPF (Sun Protection Factor) is the next thing to consider – and probably the most confusing. There are various SPF levels ranging from the low end of 15 to upwards of 100.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a sunscreen that is broad-spectrum, water-resistant with an SPF of at least 30, which blocks 97 percent of the sun’s UVB rays.
A sunscreen with SPF 50 blocks 98 percent, and SPF 100 blocks 99 percent of the sun’s UVB rays. A higher SPF (think 50 or 70) is needed for the best protection.
Although remember, a high-number SPF does not allow you to spend additional time outdoors without reapplication.
Proper sunscreen application – and reapplication make all the difference. It is best to put on sunscreen generously about 15-20 minutes before sun exposure and reapply about every two hours or even sooner (especially if you burn easily) outdoors.
Most adults need about 1 ounce to cover their bodies entirely. Do not forget to apply sunscreen to the tops of your feet, your neck, your ears, and the top of your head.
Lips can also get sunburned, so protect your lips with a lip balm or lipstick that contains sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. And to help you remember when it is time to reapply sunscreen, set a reminder on your phone.
Keep track of your products’ expiration date(s). Using outdated sunscreen will not provide the same level of protection.
Another way to avoid a sunburn or sun damage is to take additional precautions like staying in the shade out of direct sunlight, wearing sun-protective clothing, or putting on a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
Have a safe summer, and to schedule an appointment with one of our providers, you can reach us at 256-377-8008. You can find us at 9518 U.S. Highway 231 in Rockford, Alabama 35136.
Accordia Health is a Federally Qualified Health Center. Accordia accepts all patients, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay, and offers a wide variety of services through a sliding fee discount program based on family size and income. We also accept Medicare, Medicaid, ALL Kids, and most private insurance.