Shopping for sunscreen can be a challenge. With seemingly endless products with varying degrees of protection, making the right choice can be a bit confusing.
Everyone knows they need to stay protected when spending a lot of time in the sun, but how much is really needed?
Amy Kassouf, M.D., a dermatologist at Cleveland Clinic, said Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is important, but there is more to consider before making your purchase.
She said that folks often get hung up on the SPF, but don’t know that it only measures protection against UVB rays.
“You don’t necessarily need a hundred, or plus, plus, plus SPF – what you need is a broad spectrum one that’s going to cover UVA as well as that designation for the UVB with the SPF,” said Dr. Kassouf.
Just how much SPF
While most UVB rays are covered with a 30 SPF, Dr. Kassouf said that one thing to keep in mind is that when sunscreen products are tested, testers generally use a large coating of sunscreen – way more than people would probably use on themselves.
To account for the difference, it’s a good idea to go for something that’s between a 30 and 50 SPF to ensure protection.
UVA and UVB
Dr. Kassouf said it’s important to remember that protection from UVB rays will prevent people from getting burned, but it won’t help protect them from UVA rays, which can also cause skin cancer.
“UVB are those mid-day burning rays and you’ll get burned, if you don’t have a high enough SPF, but if you don’t cover UVA - you get UVA from when the sun is up till the sun is down - and that UVA can cause basil cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas down the road,” said Dr. Kassouf.
Dr. Kassouf said it’s also important to reapply sunscreen after spending many hours outdoors, as it does wear off from exposure to water and sweat.