The last thing you will want to deal with after a relaxing day by the pool is bright red, tender, sunburned skin. Not only will your flushed skin clash with your bright summer clothes, but there may be lingering health risks associated with your sunburn. To avoid the distinctive sting of sunburns this season, you will want to reach for some sunscreen before you head outside. However, not all sunscreen is created equal. In fact, some may be failing to fully protect your skin in spite of the high SPF listed on the label.
Important label features
You might shop for sunscreen with one thing in mind: SPF. While this is an important number for measuring UVB protection, it does not reflect a sunscreen’s ability to shield skin from UVA rays. UVA light is harmful to the skin, yet many sunscreens fall short in UVA protection. Another important thing to remember is that higher SPF is not always better. The difference between an SPF 50 and SPF 100 sunscreen is marginal in terms of skin protection, but there are often more potentially harmful chemicals that could irritate your skin in the SPF 100 variety.
Best and worst buys
You might be surprised to learn that brand names and higher prices do not line up with the quality of sunscreen. Banana Boat Ultra Defense Max Skin Protect SPF 110 received the highest Consumer Reports rating for UVA/UVB protection; Target’s Up & Up Sport SPF 50, Walmart’s Equate Ultra Protection SPF 50 and Coppertone Water Babies SPF 50 also ranked high on Consumer Reports list and boasted smaller price tags, averaging about one dollar per ounce. Those that did not get recommended ratings include Neutrogena Wet Skin SPF 45+, Kiss My Face with Hydresia SPF 40, and All Terrain AquaSport SPF 30. Incidentally, these were among the more expensive sunscreens available on shelves.
Once you have the right sunscreen in hand, it will only be effective if you apply it generously and often. You should reapply sunscreen every two hours, or every hour if you are in water or working up a sweat. The spots most people miss when applying sunscreen include the tops of the feet, underarms, and lower back. You may need a little help from a willing companion to apply sunscreen in all exposed areas, so be sure to bring some friends along when you hit the beach. As far as spray on sunscreens go, it’s best to avoid them altogether.
Sunscreen for sensitive skin
You can use one sunscreen for your whole body and face, but this may not be the best idea if you have sensitive skin. If your skin is oily or acne prone, choose a variety of sunscreen that is water-based and labeled “non-comedogenic.” Just be careful if you select a moisturizer or facial cream that also has SPF protection, because most of these products are not waterproof.
Now that you know how to buy the right sunscreen, get out there and start having some fun this summer!