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What is the "Right" Sunscreen?

UVA? UVB? What’s the right amount of SPF? They even make some that are 100 SPF now.  That should be everything I need right?  Not quite.

Going to the store to pick out sunscreen can feel overwhelming.  We know that sunscreen is our best bet to prevent sunburns, freckles, and wrinkles but did you realize that it can also save your life?

May is National Melanoma Awareness Month and most of us know someone in our lives who have been affected by this rapidly growing and deadly cancer.  We’ve been trained to look for moles or freckles that appear irregular, black and larger than an eraser tip on a pencil, but how about just preventing it altogether instead?

The American Academy of Dermatology cites the biggest risk factors for melanoma are: prolonged exposure to the sun, tanning beds (which is found to increase risk more than 70%), and being of fair complexion with light eyes.  The good news is, the right sunscreen and some common sense can drastically lower your risk and keep your skin healthy.

Back to the question of what to buy. The sun puts out two main kinds of rays that damage our skin. UVB rays are relatively superficial and are those that cause redness and burns.  Sunscreen with UVB will protect the top layers of skin where a burn is seen.  UVA rays penetrate your skin deeper and cause damage that leads to brown spots, aging, and most importantly skin cancers.  If you’re not sure whether the stuff in your medicine cabinet is UVA protective, look for these ingredients: avobenzone, oxybenzone, ecamsule, titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.  The last two ingredients (titanium dioxide and zinc oxide) are especially important because they provide a physical barrier to block harmful sun rays instead of just chemical barriers alone.  Check your labels to make sure your sunscreen says it protects against UVA and UVB or has the ingredients listed above.  If you’re still not sure? Bring in those old tubes, we‘re happy to look through them with you to make sure you have the right protection!

uva-uvb-explained
  • UVA and UVB protection, at least 30 SPF
  • Apply 20 minutes before you head out of the house and make it part of your daily routine.
  • Reapply every few hours if you are out and about.  This step is commonly missed.
  • Wear hats, eyewear and protective clothing.  Yes, the UVA rays can penetrate your clothes, but it will offer some additional protection.  And yes, melanoma can be in the eyes or behind the eye.
  • Know your skins, check it regularly, and love it.  It takes care of you, care for your skins in return.

Resources

www.americanacadenyofdermatology.org
www.mebmd.com
www.skincancer.org