Sunscreen: Which Kind and How Much?

We all know that the sun’s rays, as comforting as they are, can damage your skin. Did you know that there are two specific types of rays that damage in two different ways? UVB rays burn the skin, and UVA rays age the skin, resulting in wrinkling and age spots. Too much exposure to either can increase your risk of skin cancer. The best protection against both types of ultraviolet exposure is broad spectrum sun screen.

What is Broad Spectrum Sunscreen?

Broad spectrum sunscreen protects your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. Most sunscreens are broad spectrum these days, but be sure to check the label.

What is SPF and How High an SPF Do I Need?

SPF stands for sun protection factor. It’s a measurement of how well the sunscreen will protect you against the UVB rays–in other words, how long it takes to sunburn your skin if it were used. A sunscreen with an SPF of 15 would protect your skin 15 times longer than if you wore no sunscreen. So, if you usually turn red within 20 minutes, an SPF 15 sunscreen would, theoretically, prevent reddening 15 times longer–about 5 hours.

From the above example, you can see that a super-high SPF isn’t necessary. In fact, most dermatologists recommend a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of between 15 and 30. Those above that level provide only minute levels of increased protection.

Is Waterproof Sunscreen Important? 

Water resistant sunscreen will protect for up to 40 minutes, even if you’re sweating or swimming. Products labeled “very water resistant” are purported to work for 80 minutes. Of course, it assumes you put enough of it on your body and slather it everywhere, not just your arms and legs. Don’t forget the back of your neck, ears, nose and tops of your feet—spots easily missed!

How Much Sunscreen is Enough?

It’s important to slather on the sunscreen because using too little can expose you to a nasty burn and premature skin aging, while using too much costs pennies. Your skin is worth it! Studies show that most people put on too little sunscreen, so be sure to apply plenty and reapply it after you’ve been outside for over 40 minutes and sooner if you are swimming or working up a sweat.

The Bottom Line:

Enjoying summer is the reward for living through our central Ohio winters! Don’t ruin yours with a sunburn!

About Dayton OH Cosmetic Surgeon Dr. Raymond Wolf