The most common form of sunscreen is the lotion form which applies like regular lotion. These come in a range of sun protection factors ranging from as low as SPF 5 to SPF 50. Commonly, people believe that buying SPF 5 sunscreen means that you also get 10 times more protection, but this is not the case. In the case of SPF 5, it means that if you usually burn under the sun in 10 minutes, then after application you are safe from burning in the next 50 minutes. Depending on how long you are spending under the sun, choose the SPF and re-apply accordingly. Experts believe that SPF 15 lotion is a good standard SPF for most people, but those who have very fair skin, those who have a history of skin cancer and those who suffer from lupus should choose a higher SPF.
When it comes to being under the sun, the factors that we have to watch out for are UVA rays and UVB. UV stands for Ultraviolet while A & B stands for the type. It was commonly thought before that only UVB rays can cause cancer, but recent studies suggest that UVA also contributes to cancer and aging. Some sun block may have not adjusted their chemical composition to take this into consideration, protecting the skin only from UVB rays but leaving it defenseless against UVA. Moreover, the Environmental Protection Agency reports that 90% of the changes in our skin associated with aging are caused by a lifetime’s exposure to the sun.
When it comes to UVA protection, it’s hard to tell what the product is offering because there is no rating like SPF to identify it. The thing is to look for ingredients that indicate its capability to protect from UVA rays, such as avobenzone, ecamsule, titanium dioxide, oxybenzone, zinc oxide or sulisobenzone.
If you’re hitting the beach or the pool, you should also take into account that your sunscreen is water resistant. The FDA mandates that water resistant sunscreen should stay effective at protecting your skin after 40 minutes in the water. There are brands that are “very water resistant” and this could protect for up to 80 hours after taking a dip. This does not mean waterproof though, which means that you will have to reapply regularly if you’re staying longer under the sun.
For kids and toddlers, there are sunscreen products available that won’t be as strong as the type that adults use. Children’s skin would be more sensitive to the chemicals included in the typical sunscreen, so kid friendly sunscreen tend to only use ingredients that coat the skin but don’t get absorbed. These ingredients will include titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. For infants, it is advisable not to expose them to much sunlight at all—especially the midday sun. If you are an adult who has sensitive skin, it is recommended sunscreen formulated for children too.
Keeping sunscreen handy is a good defense for your skin, but it is best to also be practical and not stay too long under the sun. You can also limit your sun exposure to the times when the rays are not too harsh, such as in the morning (around 9pm) and in the afternoon (past 3pm). Stay under the shade when you’re not swimming, and don protective headgear and eyewear when exposed to the strong sun.