Sunscreen: 10 Things You Need to Know

Summer is approaching, and that means more time outdoors and more skin exposed to the sun. Sunscreen is necessary to protect your skin from the sun. Here are the 10 things you need to know about sunscreen this summer.


  1. What does SPF mean?

Sun Factor Protection (SPF) rates how effective the sunscreen is in preventing sunburn caused by UVB rays.


  1. What SPF level should I use?

You should use a minimum of SPF 15 suncreeen. The consensus is a sunscreen needs to have an SPF of 15 or higher for normal everyday activity, and a SPF of 30, or higher for extended outdoor exposure.


  1. What does broad spectrum mean?

A broad-spectrum sunscreen means is provides protection for both UVB and UVA rays. UVB rays burn skin, while UVA rays cause age-related damage. Both rays are linked to skin cancer so it is important to look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen.


  1. What are active ingredients?

The active ingredients in sunscreen are what actually provide protection from the sun. There are currently 17 active sunscreen ingredients approved by the FDA. When choosing a sunscreen look for one that has at least one of the following ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, ecamsule, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or sulisobenzone. Any ingredients outside of the active ingredients, present in your sunscreen are providing moisture or another benefit besides sun protection.


  1. Can I use expired sunscreen?

No! Pay attention to the expiration date on your bottle of sunscreen from last summer. The active ingredients in sunscreen can deteriorate over time, which means the protection won’t be as effective. Expiration dates do matter when it comes to sunscreen.


  1. When should I apply sunscreen?

You should apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before going outside to give your skin time to absorb it.

  1. Is waterproof sunscreen effective?

    There is no such thing as waterproof sunscreen. You can find water resistant sunscreen, which means it upholds protection for a certain amount of time after getting wet. If you are in water or sweat a lot, you will need to reapply frequently to maintain protection.


  1. How often should I reapply sunscreen?

You should reapply sunscreen every two hours while you’re outdoors. If you are swimming or sweating heavily, you should reapply immediately.


  1. Which is better, spray on or liquid sunscreen?

The short answer is it doesn’t really matter whether you use spray on or liquid sunscreen. The most important factor is remembering to apply it regularly. It is more a case of personal taste; some people dislike slathering on sunscreen and find the spray bottles a lot more convenient. Use whichever option is best for you and your outdoor activities. The only downside to spray on is it can be harder to see where you’ve applied it so you can potentially miss spots easier than liquid. With both options though it is important to make sure you apply a generous amount and cover every part of your body.


  1. Does sunscreen provide total protection from the sun?

While sunscreen will do a good job at protecting your skin from sun damage if applied properly, it does not provide full protection from the sun. No matter how high the SPF, spending prolonged periods in the sun will increase your risk of sun damage. In addition to sunscreen, you need to stay in the shade when possible, wear a hat, and sun protective clothing when possible.



Want to learn more about sun protection. Read our blog on skin cancer prevention.