We hear a lot about what sunscreens are best to use and what we should look for when buying one, but do we really know what terms like “Broad Spectrum” really mean? Or what the difference is between UVA and UVB rays? We’re here to help you learn more about what you need from a sunscreen and why.
- UVB: UVB rays are what cause your skin to burn, tan, freckle, hyperpigmentate and can cause brown or age spots. UVB rays are blocked by windows, which is why you can’t catch a tan in your car.
- UVA: UVA rays cause more long-term damage, such as aging, wrinkles, and age spots. Aging is, of course, inevitable, but aging caused by UVA rays is preventable. UVA rays can make it through windows, so it’s good to be protected while driving.
- SPF: SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor against UVB rays. The number stands for how many times longer you can stay in the sun with sunscreen than you could without protection. For instance, an SPF 30 will allow you to stay in the sun 30 times longer without burning than you could without applying any at all. You should use an SPF of 30 for your body and 15 for your lips.
- Classic Sunscreen: Classic sunscreen has chemical active ingredients that absorb and dissipate UVB and/or UVA rays before they enter the skin. You should always apply a chemical sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going out into the sun.
- Mineral/Physical Sunscreen: Mineral Sunscreens, also called Physical Sunscreens, have mineral active ingredients that scatter and reflect UVB and/or UVA rays. Unlike chemical sunscreens, minerals are active as soon as they’re applied.
- Broad Spectrum: Broad Spectrum means the sunscreen protects against both UVB and UVA rays. Sunscreens have to pass an FDA test in order to be labeled Broad Spectrum. Be sure to look for a sunscreen with this label to get the most protection.
- Lotion, sprays, sticks and powder sunscreens: There are some myths out there that certain sunscreens work better than others, but all sunscreens essentially work the same. It’s all about finding the one that works best for you and making sure you’re applying enough. Generally speaking, you want to apply one teaspoon of sunscreen per body part. It’s easier to miss spots with powders and sprays, so make sure you’re thorough in your application.
- Water-resistant sunscreen: Water-resistant does not mean waterproof, but it does mean that these sunscreens will maintain their SPF for up to 80 minutes of water exposure. Even if you haven’t dipped a toe in the pool or ocean, you can sweat off your sunscreen, so always reapply after those 80 minutes are up.
Here in Arizona, it’s important to use sunscreen if you’re going to be out in the sun for more than 20 minutes. You should apply it to any area that will be exposed to the sun and even to those that are covered by clothing. Some of the most forgotten areas are the ears, back of the neck, and our scalp and hair part. Make sure to reapply your sunscreen after two hours of sun exposure and to cover up and protect your skin as much as possible. There are many different options in sunscreens, from tints to textures, so be sure to speak to your provider about sunscreen options and they can help you find the perfect sunscreen for you and your skin.