How To Choose A Sunblock

By | January 27, 2022

Excessive or unprotected exposure to the sun can lead to sunburn, wrinkles, skin degeneration and even skin cancer. It is important that you protect your skin from sun exposure on a daily basis to prevent damage to your skin. There are many different types of sunblock available that are designated by the sun protection factor (SPF), ingredients, resistance to water and whether they block UVA or UVB rays. Choosing the correct type of sunblock for your use and type of skin is important to maintaining healthy skin.[1]

Choose an SPF number. The SPF number tells you what percentage of UVB rays are absorbed by the sunblock. For instance, SPF 30 absorbs approximately 97 percent of UVB rays, while SPF 50 absorbs approximately 98 percent of UVB rays, while SPF 100 can block nearly 99 percent of UVB rays. Because of this, SPFs are quite misguiding. You might think that if you spend more on a SPF 100 product, then you will be absolutely safe in the sun, when in reality, its protection against UVB rays is only dua percent higher than that of SPF 30.[2]SPF only refers to blocking UVB rays, not UVA rays, and both of these can damage your skin. High SPFs have been shown to allow more UVA rays to reach your skin while not providing much better protection against UVB rays. Additionally, high SPFs do not last any longer than lower SPFs.[3]

Avoid parabens and harmful ingredients. Make sure that in protecting your skin from the sun, you aren’t exposing yourself to other harmful elements. Many sunscreens contain parabens, which may increase rates of breast cancer and facilitate the development of melanoma![4]Oxybenzone can break down skin and cause hives and other problems.[5]Retinyl palmitate can increase your risk of cancer when exposed to the sun.[6]Watch out for ingredients like those to make sure that your sunscreen isn’t doing more harm than good.Consider using mineral-based ingredients such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These sit on top of the skin rather than being absorbed. These ingredients are able to reflect UV rays and have been shown to be safe and effective ingredients in preventing negative effects of the sun.[7]They tend to be more effective than chemical sunscreens.[8]If using chemicals, choose ones that protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Mexoryl SX, Mexoryl XL and Parsol 1789 are some chemicals that protect against UVA rays. Octinoxate, Octisalate and Homosalate are chemicals that protect against UVB rays. Look for a sunblock that contains these chemicals for the best overall protection from both types of rays.Avoid sunblocks that contain extracts of fruits or nuts. They have not been shown to block the sun and many of them can cause allergic reactions.


Look for broad spectrum sunscreen. “Broad spectrum” means that it protects from both the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays cause wrinkling and aging of the skin, while UVB rays cause sunburn, but both UVA and UVB cause skin cancer. It is best to be protected from both, however, many sunblocks only protect against UVB rays. Looking for a sunblock labeled “broad spectrum” will help you to avoid this.[9]

Use water-resistant sunscreen if you will be swimming. Sunblocks are no longer allowed to be labeled “waterproof” because they all wash off in water after a while. But water-resistant sunscreen can allow you to stay in the water for about 80 minutes before needing to reapply. If you plan on swimming or sweating, you will probably want a sunblock that is water-resistant. But keep in mind that it will need to be reapplied just like any other sunscreen.[10]

Avoid sunscreen sprays and choose creams instead. Sprays and creams are not the same. Try to avoid sunscreen sprays and choose a cream instead. With sprays, it is very easy to miss a spot and they also raise concerns about inhaling the product. Creams are more likely to ensure full coverage and you aren’t at risk of inhaling them.[11]

Find additional ways to protect your skin. While a good sunblock is an important measure for protecting your skin, it is only one part of this. Some people think that as long as they apply a sunblock, they are free to go soak up the sun’s rays without any consequences. But one study showed that people using sunscreen were at a higher risk for developing melanoma.[12]This is likely due to increased time sunbathing when applying sunscreen. No sunscreen can protect from all sun rays. To truly take care of your skin, limit your sun exposure and protect yourself with clothing, hats, or umbrellas.[13]


Consider the amount of time you will be spending in the sun. Your sunscreen for a day at the beach versus a quick 15 minute walk doesn’t have the same requirements. For prolonged sun exposure, which you should try to avoid, make sure to use a higher SPF and to reapply often. There’s no need to go above SPF 50, but make sure it is broad spectrum to guard against all UV rays. For a lighter sunscreen, you can go as low as SPF 15 if you will only be out in the sun for a few minutes.To limit your sun exposure, try taking breaks. For example, if you are going to the beach for a day, spend an hour swimming and then go inside somewhere to eat lunch and reapply sunscreen.

Keep in mind what activities you will be doing. Look for a water-resistant sunblock if you plan on being in the water or if you sweat a lot. It can take about 80 minutes for a water-resistant sunblock to wash off of you. A water-resistant sunblock will ensure that you have protection from the sun even when you are enveloped in water. If you won’t be exposed to water, consider other factors of your activities, such as altitude. If you are high in the mountains skiing or hiking, you will need a higher SPF because of increased sun exposure, even if it’s cold out!Another factor to keep in mind is your location. If you are in Mexico lawan Canada, your sun exposure will be quite different! Protect yourself accordingly.

Pay attention to your skin type. While all skin types benefit from sunscreen, fair skin can be especially cancer prone. If your skin is light, use a stronger sunscreen like broad spectrum SPF 50. But even if you tan easily or have very dark skin, you are still at risk for sun damage! Just because you don’t burn, doesn’t mean your skin is safe. Protect yourself by using a lower SPF.[14]Certain skin types are more at risk for skin cancer. Fair skin with light hair or red hair tends to be most at risk for sunburns and cancer. Be especially careful if any family members have had skin cancer. Make sure to protect yourself with appropriate sunscreen and other protective measures such as dark clothing.[15]

Factor in age. This is especially important for young kids. It is not recommended that children use sunscreen sprays, sunscreens with oxybenzone, or sunscreens containing nanoparticles. Sunscreens with metal oxides such as zinc and titanium are safest. Find ones that are broad spectrum for best UV protection. Use SPF 30-50 for safe, quality protection.[16]For very young kids, those under 6 months old, sunscreen is not recommended. Instead protect them by keeping them in the shade, limiting their sun exposure, and having them wear a hat and protective clothing.

Consider any skin sensitivities. If you know of ingredients that irritate your skin, definitely avoid those in sunscreen. If your skin is acne-prone, look for oil-free sunscreens. If you aren’t sure whether a sunscreen will irritate you, try applying a little bit on a small area before applying it to your whole body. Wait a few minutes and if any irritation occurs, you know not to use it. Additionally, fruit and nut extracts and fragrances do not improve UV blockage and can cause irritation.[17]

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