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Are You Using the Right Sunscreen? Maybe Not

Tim Boyer's picture
Sunscreen risk

Choosing the right sunscreen to protect you and your family is quite literally a life and death decision. The latest statistics concerning skin cancer is that 20% of the population will develop a skin cancer sometime in their life that may include the most lethal skin cancer of all - melanoma.

Clouding the issue of sunscreens and whether or not you really need to use them has been in the news of late with news stories about how that sun exposure and tanning beds have a recently discovered health benefit and that some sunscreens are actually poisonous.

Moreover, sunscreen labeling that is false and/or misleading has added to the confusion and prompted the FDA to require more accurate labeling of sunscreen products so that the public will know exactly what amount of protection that they are getting with their sunscreen and how the sunscreens should be applied.

The following is a simple list of what you need to look for in choosing the right sunscreen for your body and how you should be using it:

• Avoid sunscreen bottles that only list the SPF (sun protection factor) on the label. Often, this type of sunscreen only protects against sunburn-causing UVB-rays, but not the skin-aging UVA rays. Both UVA and UVB rays together cause skin cancer. Also, just because a sunscreen label says SPF 50 in comparison to one that says SPF 15, this does not mean that the higher SPF covers both types of UV rays. Typically it may only protect against UVB better, but still not UVA.

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• Choose a sunscreen product that states “broad spectrum” along with the SPF to ensure both UVA and UVB rays are covered.

• Choose a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, but preferentially an SPF of 50. Do not waste money on more expensive sunscreens that claim an SPF greater than 50 as they do not really offer more protection than an SPF 50 sunscreen.

• Do not believe that sunscreens labeled as “water proof” really are water proof. The FDA determined that this is misleading and now require manufacturers to state that their products are “water resistant” meaning that water and sweat will wash away the protective sunscreen eventually. Water resistant sunscreens last only about 40-80 minutes and must be reapplied fairly often when swimming or sweating.

• When not in the water or sweating heavily, reapply your sunscreen every 2 hours is the recommendation of the FDA when using a sunscreen.

• Wear sunscreen even on cloudy or overcast days due to that UVA and UVB rays still penetrate through the clouds and can damage your skin.

For more information about sunscreen protection, visit the FDA’s webpage about sunscreens.

Image Source: Courtesy of PhotoBucket
Reference: FDA: Drugs--Sunscreens