How to Choose the Right Sunscreen for You

Posted on April 28, 2021

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Sunscreen is the single most effective way you can protect your skin from damage and signs of aging. It can seem overwhelming, however, to look at the options in the sunscreen aisle and pick one that fits your needs. It’s important to know that there are plenty of things to look out for when it comes to picking sunscreen, and that there are a few tried and true things recommended by dermatologists. Here are just a few ways to find the right sunscreen to make sure your skin stays healthy and safe for the long term.

SPF Matters

SPF, or sun protection factor, is a measure of how much protection a formula provides versus bare skin. So, wearing SPF 30 provides 30 times more protection than if you weren’t wearing any sunscreen. Most dermatologists recommend at least SPF 30, but formulas higher than SPF 50 generally aren’t recommended since they don’t provide any more discernable protection than SPF 50. For daily use or an hour or two out in the sun, SPF 30 is usually sufficient when applied properly (15-30 minutes before you go outside). If you’ll be outside for longer, you should make sure to use SPF 50 and reapply every couple hours at most.

Note that many sunscreens don’t meet their advertised level of sun protection simply because of the difficulty of the manufacturing process. When in doubt, always aim for a higher SPF since, even if the formula doesn’t meet the SPF 50 label, it still offers sufficient protection.

Waterproof Isn’t Truly Waterproof

Waterproof sunscreen can be helpful if you’re enjoying water activities, but keep in mind that no sunscreen is truly waterproof. You should still reapply frequently and make sure you’re still protected after going in water. If you’re on a lake or large body of water, remember that the environment can reflect and magnify UV rays, meaning you’ll be exposed to sun damage that way, too. Always make sure to protect your eyes as well with UV-blocking sunglasses.

Broad Spectrum Is a Must

“Broad spectrum” protection means that the formula protects against both UVA and UVB rays. The sun emits both of these types of radiation, but they affect the skin in different ways. UVA rays can cause signs of aging over time, while UVB rays are responsible for sunburns and, ultimately, cancerous activity. Even if you’re not prone to sunburns, a broad spectrum sunscreen will protect against both and offer the most benefit to your skin.

Mineral vs. Chemical Formula

Mineral sunscreens are sometimes marketed as “natural” formulas and use ingredients like zinc compounds to physically block UV rays. Chemical sunscreens use other active ingredients to block UV rays and are more effective at blocking sun exposure. These types of sunscreens can often be more cosmetically elegant and don’t leave a whitish “cast”, making them a better option for daily use.

Spray vs. Lotion

Spray sunscreens can be more convenient to use outside and reapply often, but it can be easier to miss areas of the body. If you use spray sunscreen, make sure to still rub it in to the skin and ensure you’re completely covered. However, spray sunscreens are not usually recommended for children since the formulas can be harmful to breathe in.

Schedule a Consultation

There are a lot of options to choose from when it comes to selecting sunscreen. To meet with our team and learn more about how to protect your skin for the long term, we invite you to contact our Richmond office by calling or filling out our online form

We also offer a selection of physician-grade skincare products and can customize the right sun protection regimen for you.

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