4 Things to Check When Buying Sunscreen
Go for broad spectrum
Broad spectrum sunscreen protects you against both types of sun rays that cause skin damage: UVA and UVB rays.
UVB rays are what most people are familiar with. These are the rays that cause sunburns and increase your risk for skin cancer. They are strongest between 1 pm - 4 pm in the summer and early fall.
The less intense rays, UVA, are emitted year round and are responsible for sun spots, premature skin aging, an increase in wrinkles, and can increase you risk for skin cancer.
If your sunscreen just protects you against UVB rays, you might not look like a cooked lobster, but you aren’t protecting your skin from long term sun exposure.
Don’t be fooled by water resistant sunscreen
Walk down the sunscreen aisle and you’ll see labels promising to be “water resistant” and “sport sunscreens.” These labels are all trying to get you to buy into the fact that you only have to worry about applying the sunscreen once and then you’re safe for as long as you want. After all, it’s “water resistant.”
The problem is that these sunscreens are only allowed to be considered water resistant between 40 - 80 minutes. Each sunscreen that claims to be “water resistant” or “sweat resistant” must have a rating between 40 - 80. That number is how long the sun screen will work while you are sweating or in the water. After that, you need to reapply to protect your skin.
If you are going to be out in water or sweating a lot, you should be wearing a water resistant sunscreen, but it is important to realize that you still need to reapply.
Purchase sunscreen with SPF 30 - 50
Another trick that many sunscreen manufactures use to get people to dish out more money is to increase the SPF number. After all, almost everyone believes that you should always reach for a higher SPF when available.
While a large SPF won’t hurt you, there really isn’t any reason to spend more money on a sunscreen that is higher than 50. By wearing an SPF of 30 - 50, you are protecting yourself from 97-98% of the sun’s UVB rays. By going over SPF 50, you aren’t blocking more rays or increasing the time before you burn since in 2 hours all sunscreen starts losing its effectiveness.
Reapplying and wearing sunscreen daily is more important that the SPF of your sunscreen.
Check the expiration date
Did you know that sunscreens have an expiration date?
Most sunscreens are made to work for up to three years. After that, the sunscreen may not have its original strength or not work at all.
When picking up your old bottles of sunscreen from last year, check to see if there is an expiration date. If you can’t find one and believe that you’ve had it for more than two years, it’s probably time to make a trip to the store.