The choice between different sunscreens is becoming more complicated as there are many options available including products that contain Helioplex which offer more protection against UVA and UVB rays. Another important factor is to ensure that the sunscreen is applied correctly. The following facts can help you make the right choices about sunscreen.
Finding The Best Sunscreen
There are two ways that sunscreen helps protect you from ultraviolet rays. Some reflect the light away from your body and others absorb the rays to prevent them reaching your skin.
Traditionally a high sun protection factor (SPF) was the first thing that you would look for in a sunscreen as this blocks out the UVB rays which causes burning. UVA rays will not burn the skin but they do cause premature aging and are also known to lead to cancer. UVA rays can be responsible for up to 90% of the changes in the skin that are associated with aging.
The New Broad Spectrum Sunscreens
Broad spectrum sunscreens offer protection against both UVA and UVB rays. In order to be fully protected the sunscreen should have an SPF of 15 or higher. SPF 15 multiplies the normal amount of time that it would take for you to burn by 15 so if you would normally burn after 10 minutes you would be able to go up to 150 minutes without burning.
SPF 15 will suit most people but a higher SPF may be needed if you have fair skin, there is a history of skin cancer in your family or if you have a condition that increases sensitivity to sunlight such as lupus.
It is not the case the SPF 30 provides twice as much protection as SPF 15. Sunscreen with SPF 15 will filter out 93% of UVB rays and this only increases to 97% when using SPF 30.
There is no rating for protection against UVA rays and so the ingredients of the sunscreen are the most important things to look for. A good sunscreen will provide at least one of the following ingredients: zinc oxide, sulisobenzone, titanium dioxide, oxybenzone, avobenzone and ecamsule.
Ecamsule is a newly approved ingredient that blocks UVA rays. Europe and Canada have sold the product as Mexoryl SX since 1993. It is now available in the US in L’Oreal’s Anthelios SX products. It is an expensive product with one $30 tube only being enough for four full body applications.
Neutrogena’s Helioplex is a stabilized version of avonbenzone, which is not a new ingredient. It needs to be stabilized so it does not break down when exposed to sunlight which would make the sunscreen ineffective. Dermaplex and Active Photo Barrier Complex also use stabilized avonbenzone.
Advertising hype may be responsible for some of the excitement about these products. A sunscreen that costs $30 won’t offer any more protection than a cheaper product if the ingredients are the same.
Less expensive ingredients that will protect against UVA rays include titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Sunscreens with these ingredients used to make the skin appear pale but this is no longer the case due to newer manufacturing techniques.
A sunscreen that is resistant to water and sweat will be needed if you are going to be exercising or spending any amount of time in the water. It is important to remember that no sunscreen is completely waterproof so you will need to check how long you will be protected for in the water and make you sure you reapply before this amount of time elapses.
Personal preference is the most important factor when choosing a brand of sunscreen as you are not going to want to use a brand you don’t like even if it is recommended by experts.
The chemicals that are used in adult sunscreens may irritate children’s sensitive skin. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are commonly used in children’s sunscreens as they will protect the skin without being absorbed. Babies under the age of 6 months should be kept out of the sun and babies older than this protected with a sunscreen that has a SPF of least 15.
Children’s sunscreen may also benefit adults with sensitive skin or allergies. Sunscreens with preservatives, fragrances and alcohol should also be avoided. If you have dry skin then using a sunscreen with moisturizers may help.
How To Wear Sunscreen
Choosing the right sunscreen is important but you need to make sure that it is applied correctly and used everyday.
Sunscreen should be applied 15 to 30 minutes before you go outside. Women can apply it under makeup. You also need to make sure that you apply enough to adequately cover the whole of the body. Studies show that people only get 10% to 25% of the benefit of sunscreen if they do not apply enough.
Pay attention to the spots that are easy miss such as bald spots, the back of legs, feet and tips of the ears. A lip balm with UV protection should be applied regularly.
Sunscreen should be applied every two hours regardless of how long lasting it claims to be. If you are in the water or will be sweating it should be applied more often.
Sunscreen has an expiration date so this should be checked before applying it to ensure that you are fully protected.
Sunscreen should be applied whenever you are spending a lengthy amount of time outdoors as 80% of the UV rays from the sun can still get through the clouds even on an overcast day. The sun can still damage the skin even in the winter.
Sunscreen Isn’t Enough
No sunscreen will protect you completely against the sun’s UV rays, no matter how high the SPF is or how thickly it is applied. The risk of skin cancer can increase if people mistakenly think that they are fully protected and end up spending too much time in the sun.
You may not even be fully protected under your clothes as the average cotton t-shirt only has an SPF of 4.
Other precautions are needed in addition to wearing a good sunscreen:
Wherever possible try to stay in the shade
Sunglasses should also be worn
In the United States radiation levels are highest from 10:00 to 16:00 so you should try and stay inside during these hours.
A broad brimmed hat should be worn
Clothes are available that have an ultraviolet protection rating that will protect you. Dark clothes that are tightly woven can also offer more protection in the sun.
While sunscreen is a good start, more needs to be done to protect yourself against ultraviolet rays. Sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection should always be worn.