How to Choose the Right Sunscreen for You

Ah, summer!

Time for trips to far-away vacation destinations, neighborhood block parties, and plenty of time spent having fun in the sun.

Now, the sun is our friend, and soaking up its rays can actually be vital for your health. But it’s also important to remember that too much time in the sun can have negative effects.

In the short term, exposure to radiation from the sun can lead to painful sunburn. In the long run, too much sunshine can lead to wrinkles, permanent skin damage, and an increased risk for developing skin cancer.

Protecting your skin from harmful radiation with sunscreen is one of the most important things you can do to stay safe, comfortable, and healthy, both during the summer and all year round.

But today, picking the right sun protection for you is often easier said than done. There are so many choices out there, and everyone has different opinions about what works and what doesn’t. It can be hard to know which sun protection methods will really work for you!

Let’s try to clear things up! Here are some expert-approved guidelines for picking the right sunscreen. If . . .

You’re Looking for Maximum Protection

When you’re comparing sunscreens in the store, there are a few important labels to keep in mind. Above all, it’s important to take note of the terms “SPF” and “broad spectrum protection.”

SPF, or “sun protection factor,” rates “how well the sunscreen protects against one type of cancer-causing UV ray, ultraviolet B,” according to WebMD. UVB rays are the rays most commonly associated with sunburn.

Sunscreens labeled as “broad spectrum” contain ingredients that also help protect your skin from ultraviolet A rays. These rays have less to do with sunburn; instead, they penetrate deeply into the skin,and can cause long-term physical changes and increase your risk for developing skin cancer.

The American Cancer Society encourages people to choose sunscreens with broad spectrum protection. It also recommends choosing a sunscreen labeled as SPF 30 or higher, which should filter out roughly 97 percent of UVB rays. For shorter trips outside, other experts suggest that SPF 15 should suffice for quick, everyday use.

One thing to keep in mind? Experts agree that you should be wary of buying a sunscreen with an extremely high SPF (say, over 70). The higher the SPF, “the smaller the difference becomes,” according to the American Cancer Society. So, be careful of spending a lot more cash for only a little bit of additional protection!

You’re Planning to Be Physically Active

Lots of people have different ideas about what makes the perfect summer day. For some, it’s a relaxing few hours spent lazing out by a pool or a lake. For others, it’s a long, hard game of soccer, followed by laps in the pool and a bike ride home.

Do these two groups need different types of sun protection?

The American Cancer Society reminds shoppers to look on the label of any commercial sunscreen they’re purchasing for phrases like “water-resistant.” To comply with FDA guidelines, the label mus explain how long the sunscreen’s SPF will hold up to swimming or sweating.

Maybe even more important is to make sure that you’re applying your sunscreen the right way! If you’re going to be active, keep these tips from the American Academy of Dermatology in mind:

  • Apply your chosen sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before you go out
  • Reapply sunscreen every 90 minutes to two hours, and even more regularly if you’re swimming or sweating a lot
  • Remember that toweling off can remove sunscreen, so consider reapplying after you dry off
  • Cover up your exposed skin with clothing, sunglasses, and a hat, and seek out shade when you can

You’re Looking for an Alternative to Chemical Sunscreens

Looking at the ingredients list on a bottle of sunscreen at the drug store and feeling confused? You’re not alone! Plenty of people, understandably, have reservations about slathering a mess of unknown chemicals on their skin.

For others, it’s important to find an alternative because their skin may be sensitive and react badly to some of the ingredients in chemical sunscreens.

Looking for another option? Here are a few options that may be worth considering if you’re looking for something new:

Physical Sunscreen

According to Women’s Health, “chemical” sunscreens sink into your skin, where they help by absorbing harmful UVA and UVB radiation. In contrast, physical sunscreens form a protective barrier on top of your skin, where they physically block unwanted radiation.

The active ingredients in most physical sunscreens are natural minerals, usually zinc oxide or titanium oxide. Women’s Health reports that these sunscreens are gentler on the skin than most chemical sunscreens, making them a safer choice for those with skin problems or allergies.

Natural Oils

While there are some debates about their effectiveness, many people swear by using natural oils for sun protection. Writers have touted the benefits of raspberry seed oil, carrot seed oil, and coconut oil as natural sunscreens. Coconut oil, for example, has been said to block up to 20 percent of radiation from the sun, perfect for short jaunts outside. At the same time, coconut oil is a natural moisturizer, and can help reduce inflammation and blemishes on the skin.

What Works for You?

Ultimately, it’s important to realize that everyone’s health journey will be different! What works for some people may not work for others, and it’s important to take the steps that will keep you feeling your best.

Do you have any sunscreen recommendations? Is there a sun protection method that you’ve found that really works for you? We’d love to keep shining the light on these important questions over on Facebook!

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