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Understanding the Language of Sunscreens

Girl in the Sun

A study published says that fewer than half of the patients at a dermatology clinic knew the meaning of terms like “broad spectrum” and “SPF.”

Being able to decipher these terms can help you choose a sunscreen that gives you the protection you expect.

You’ll find everything you need to decode a sunscreen label below.

What is broad spectrum sunscreen?
The sunscreen can protect you from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.

Why you want broad spectrum sunscreen?

It can protect your skin from the sun's UVA (aging) rays and UVB (burning) rays, which helps prevent:

  • Skin cancer

  • Early skin aging (premature age spots, wrinkles, and sagging skin)

  • Sunburn

What is SPF?

SPF is the "sunburn protection factor."

About SPF numbers:

Another confusing thing about SPF is the number that follows it. This number tells you how much UVB light (the burning rays) a sunscreen can filter out.

Here's what the science tells us about how much UVB light different SPF's can filter out:

  • SPF 15: 93% of the sun's UVB rays

  • SPF 30: 97% of the sun's UVB rays

We recommend using an SPF 30 or higher.

It's important to know that no sunscreen can filter out 100% of the sun's UVB rays. That's why it's important to also wear protective clothing and seek shade.

What is waterproof sunscreen?

There's actually no such thing as waterproof sunscreen. Sweat and water wash sunscreen from our skin, however some sunscreens are water resistant.

What is water resistant sunscreen?

How long (either 40 or 80 minutes) the sunscreen will stay on wet skin.

Water resistant:

The sunscreen stays effective for 40 minutes in the water. At that time, you'll need to reapply.

Very water resistant:

The sunscreen stays effective for 80 minutes in the water. Yes, after 80 minutes, you'll need to reapply.

Even if your skin remains dry while using a water resistant sunscreen, you'll need to reapply the sunscreen every 2 hours.

Why reapply sunscreen?

Once applied, sunscreen only lasts so long on our skin. The sun's rays break down some sunscreens. Others clump and lose their effectiveness.

To continue protecting our skin from the sun when outdoors, we must reapply sunscreen:
  • Every 2 hours

  • After toweling off

  • When sweating*

  • After being in water*

*When using water resistant sunscreen, you'll need to reapply every 40 to 80 minutes.

What’s the difference between a chemical sunscreen and physical sunscreen?

Here’s a summary of the basic differences:

A chemical sunscreen:
  • Protects you by absorbing the sun’s rays

  • May contain one or more of many possible active ingredients, including oxybenzone or avobenzene

A physical sunscreen:
  • Protects you by deflecting the sun’s rays

  • Contains the active ingredients titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide

Some sunscreens use both types of active ingredients.

What does the word “sports” mean on sunscreen?

When you see the word “sports” on sunscreen, it usually means that the sunscreen will stay on wet skin for either 40 or 80 minutes.

What does the word “baby” mean on sunscreen?

In general, when you see the term "baby" on sunscreen, it means the sunscreen contains only these active ingredients:

  • Titanium dioxide

  • Zinc oxide

These ingredients are less likely to irritate a baby's sensitive skin.

What does the term “sensitive skin” mean on sunscreen?

If a sunscreen label says "sensitive skin," it often means that the sunscreen is hypoallergenic

Now that you understand sunscreen lingo, you can use this knowledge while shopping for sunscreen.

To know more about Skincare during Summers, schedule an appointment at Dr Gauri's Skin & Hair Clinic by calling at 702-464-3430

#SunCare #Sunscreen #SPF #UVA #UVB

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