I will be the first to admit that I am pale. The first time I wear shorts after winter, my legs turn heads, and not in a good way. After 21 years on this spinning rock we call Earth, I have finally decoded all the different things that are printed on sunscreen bottles. After doing my own research I thought I would compile a list of the most important things everyone should know about sunscreen. So, my friends, listen up:
1. Broad Spectrum.
Broad spectrum sunscreen refers to the fact that it will protect from both UVA and UVB rays. No matter how high the SPF, if a sunscreen isn’t listed as broad spectrum then you aren’t protected from UVA rays. Both are harmful but in different ways. UVB is in reference to ‘burning’, while UVA is in reference to ‘aging’. UVB rays cause burning, aging, and potential skin cancer. UVA rays will hit you with wrinkles and potential skin-cancer. UVA rays are the more dangerous of the two because they are able to penetrate glass and clouds and can affect you year round. They make up 90% of UV radiation.
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2. SPF: Also known as ‘Sun Protection Factor’.
The number of your SPF, say 30, is the number of minutes that the product will protect you from UVB rays. Broad spectrum sunscreens are tested by the FDA to ensure that they will provide protection for the prescribed time. Keep in mind that the listed SPF will be altered if you get wet and it’s not a waterproof product.
3. Chemical vs. Mineral Sunscreens (or Chemical vs. Physical).
Chemical sunscreens are more common. They are more effective against UVA and UVB rays. They use chemicals to filter or absorb harmful rays as opposed to reflecting them like mineral sunscreens. They can also be more irritating on sensitive skin. Mineral sunscreens use zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to provide a physical barrier between your skin and the sun. These are the sunscreens that leave a slight white residue because they are reflectors of the sun’s rays.
4. Acne-prone skin.
You have to be careful what products you are slapping on your face when you are prone to breakouts. You need to find a non-codemic option, which means it won’t clog your pores, therefore, making you less likely to breakout. It’s best to look for products from brands that specialize in skin care such as Neutrogena, Cereve, or Aveeno.
I would suggest investing in a high-quality sunscreen, and even one for your face and neck. This is unless you’re going for the old-Italian-leather-purse look at age 40. And if you are, more power to you. All jokes aside, melanoma (skin cancer) is a real risk and if you are fair skinned its best to try to take steps to protect against it. You can also invest in a big hat. Like a really big one. They’re just fun. My friend from Guam and I always roll up in our matching surfer hats, and it’s a look. My personal favorite is the Neutrogena Clear Face Break-Out Free Liquid-Lotion Sunscreen with SPF 55.
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