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Understanding Your Sunscreen Label

July 1, 2024

In July, we raise awareness that UV is the root cause of most skin cancers. It is important that you take precautions to protect yourself. One way to do this is by applying a broad-spectrum, water resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

This simple task can get very confusing when shopping for sunscreen at the grocery store or online. Here are some helpful ways to decode your sunscreen label.

What is broad spectrum sunscreen?

This protects your skin from the sun’s UVA (aging) rays and UVB (burning) rays. They help prevent skin cancer, early skin aging (age spots, wrinkles, and sagging skin), and sunburn.

What is SPF?

This is how well the sunscreen protects you from sunburn.

What about all those SPF numbers?

Keep in mind no sunscreen can filter out 100% of the sun’s UVB rays. The SPF lets you know how much UVB light (the burning rays) a sunscreen can filter out. Example: SPF 30: 97% of the sun’s UVB rays.

What is waterproof sunscreen?

There technically is not a sunscreen that is waterproof. Your sweat and water remove sunscreen from the skin. Some sunscreens are in fact water resistant though.

What is water resistant sunscreen?

This is how long a sunscreen will stay on wet skin. Water resistant: This sunscreen stays effective for 40 minutes in the water. Then you need to reapply. Very water resistant: This sunscreen stays effective for 80 minutes in the water. Reapply every 2 hours.

Why reapply sunscreen?

Sunscreen only lasts so long on your skin for a couple of reasons. They can clump and lose effectiveness and/or the sun’s rays can break the sunscreen down. Remember to reapply:

  • Every 2 hours
  • After toweling off
  • When sweating
  • After being in water

Is it ok to use sunscreen with insect repellent in it?

You should apply these separately. Sunscreen should be applied liberally and insect repellant sparingly. Now you are ready to pick just the right sunscreen for your next adventure in the great outdoors!

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