It’s happened to us all. We try to be good and apply sunscreen, still ending up with a sun burn. This leads to thinking something like “why wear it at all, it doesn’t work anyway.” Another one I hear is “it’s in my makeup, so I’m good for the day” or “I’m indoors all day so I don’t need to wear it.” These may be typical thinking patterns related to sunscreen, but they’re not the most accurate.
Yes, not all sunscreens are created the same. What I mean by this is that some are only 15 SPF (Sun Protection Factor) and are not “broad spectrum” (covering both UVA and UVB rays), or they are a spray type that does not go on to the skin evenly. Let’s talk a little about what UVA/UVB means, why it’s important to choose a “broad spectrum” cream, and not use spray on sunscreen as your only means of sun protection.
UVA and UVB are ultra-violet rays that come from the sun. They penetrate through the ozone layer and onto the earth’s surface. UVA rays go all the way down into the skin’s deeper layer called the dermis. This causes radical changes to the skin cells, which can lead to skin cancer. These rays go through glass also, so driving and sitting near a window at work will not protect you. UVB rays hit the top layer of the skin, which is what causes a sunburn. These rays bounce off surfaces such as water, sand, and pavement, and will still cause damage even if you’re under a tree or sun shade.
Because of these two main sun rays, it is important to wear a Broad Spectrum, at least 30 SPF lotion or cream every single day. Even when it’s raining. Even when you’re indoors all day. Even when you’re at the beach or golfing and mostly under a shade.
Next question is “what sunscreen should I buy?” There are so many brands, and it can be overwhelming. We buy a store brand and find that it didn’t work well, or it drips into the eyes and stings. Or it feels too greasy and has an unappealing fragrance. Or we had a reaction and it caused a rash.
Here are a few tips when looking at sunscreen options.
1: Choose a 30 SPF or higher cream as your base layer. Spray on does not apply evenly and often consists of ingredients that absorb into the skin (which can cause sensitivities).
2: Look at the back of the box for key ingredients including Zinc and Titanium. These are the physical UV blockers and sit on top of the skin. They are less likely to cause irritation or sensitivities, and work well.
3: Reapply every two hours if you’re outside all day. This is very important! The sun breaks down the sunscreen over time and also runs off with sweat or swimming.
4: If you want to use a spray on sunscreen after your initial cream layer for use throughout the day, that’s fine…just be sure to rub it in evenly and wait until it soaks in before getting into the water or sweating a lot.
5: Throw away your expired sunscreen, it doesn’t work.
6: Cover up with wide-brimmed hats and sun shirts.
7: Don’t worry, you’re still getting your Vitamin D.
A couple of really good brands of sunscreen include Elta MD and Blue Lizard. I love Elta MD because there are a variety of options depending on activity, skin type, look and feel you prefer. There is one that does not drip, is water resistant for 80 minutes, and I use for every outdoor activity my family enjoys. There is one that is zinc but goes on sheer. There are tinted options that make your skin tone look even and dewy. They are fragrance free and sensitivity free, and they’re affordable! Can’t get your spouse or partner to wear sunscreen? Elta MD makes one called Sheer that is water resistant, doesn’t drip into the eyes, and feels very light. They even have a Chapstick, because those lips need just as much protection as everywhere else! Believe me, skin cancer on the lips is not fun and you’ll never look the same again after that surgery.
Talk with your trusted dermatology provider to find the best fit for your lifestyle and budget. Take care of the skin you’re in!