6 Tips to Help You Choose Better Sunscreen

by Guest Writer

This article was updated on May 28th, 2021. 

With Memorial Day weekend around the corner, selecting adequate sunscreen is an important decision when planning to increase your exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun, especially after a long winter.

But in 2021, creating awareness about the need to protect the skin is particularly important because the rate of new cases of melanoma of the skin it’s estimated to be 106,110 representing 5.6% of all new cancer cases in the U.S., according to the National Cancer Institute.

National Cancer Institute: Cancer Stat Facts: Melanoma of the Skin

Meanwhile, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently released the “2021 Guide to Sunscreens,” which concluded that “only 25% of the products reviewed offer adequate protection and do not contain worrisome ingredients like oxybenzone, a potential hormone-disrupting chemical that is readily absorbed by the body.” The Guide was created after reviewing more than 1,800 sun protection products, including recreational sunscreens, daily-use SPF products, and lip balms with SPF.

EWG’s mission is to empower people with breakthrough research to make informed choices and live a healthy life in a healthy environment. As part of their 2021 Guide to Sunscreens, which results can be found here, EWG also provided valuable information when looking for the best protection for your skin. This National Sunscreen Day (aka “Don’t Fry Day”) you can help prevent skin cancer and promote sun safety while enjoying the outdoors. Follow these 6 tips to help you choose better sunscreen.

  1.   Avoid products with oxybenzone. This chemical is absorbed through the skin in large amounts and can affect hormone levels.
  2.   Stay away from vitamin A. Government studies link the use of retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A, to the formation of skin tumors and lesions when it’s applied to sun-exposed skin.
  3.   Steer clear of sunscreens with SPF values higher than 50+, which may not provide increased UVA protection and can fool people into thinking they’re safe from sun damage.
  4.   Avoid sprays. These popular products make it difficult to apply a thick and uniform coating on the skin. They also pose inhalation concerns.
  5.   Avoid intense sun exposure during the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  6.   Check products against EWG’s Guide to Sunscreens and avoid those with harmful additives.

What is SPF?
SPF stands for “sun protection factor.” For example, when choosing a bottle of sunscreen at the store, say you choose 15 SPF. That number measures the protection against UVB rays, meaning that particular sunscreen would offer your skin 15 times more protection from UVB rays than your skin with no sunscreen at all. The higher the number indicates, the more protection there is from those rays.

Does 30 SPF offer double the protection of a 15 SPF sunscreen?
As much as a math teacher would agree, this is incorrect. 15 SPF offers 93% protection of UVB rays. A 30 SPF protects around 97%. While it’s still an increase, it is, in no way, doubling your protection from the sun.

Are there different types of sunscreens?

Indeed. There are two different types of sunscreens, one being physical and the other being chemical.

Physical sunscreen: protects your skin from the sun by trying to block the sun’s rays from your skin.

Chemical Sunscreen: works by soaking up the sun’s rays instead of letting your skin soak the rays up.

How much sunscreen should I use?

Good question. According to skincea.com, here are some measurements to go by when applying sunscreen. **

Face: ¼ teaspoon of sunscreen

Neck: ¼ teaspoon of sunscreen

Arms: ½ teaspoon for each arm

Legs: ½ teaspoon for each leg

Chest: 1 teaspoon of sunscreen

Back: 1 teaspoon of sunscreen

**Remember, everyone’s body size is different. These are just suggested measurements. If you feel these aren’t enough to cover, your body add more fully.

The most important part of sun protection is knowing, no matter where you’re going or how sunny it is, you are at risk of skin cancer due to overexposure to UVB rays. Using sun protection is an important task that should be included in your everyday regimen.

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