There are so many different sunscreen products. Which SPF number is sufficient and what else should I look for?
Choose a sunscreen with a broad-spectrum or multi-spectrum protection factor (SPF). This number rates how well the sunscreen protects against one type of cancer causing UV ray, ultraviolet B (UVB). The UVA rays do not cause the skin to burn but do increase the risk of skin cancer and are largely responsible for the wrinkles associated with prolonged sun exposure.
For the vast majority of people, SPF 15 is fine. People with very fair skin, a family history of skin cancer, or other conditions like Lupus (which increases sensitivity to sunlight) should consider SPF 30 or higher. Keep in mind that the higher the SPF, the smaller the increased benefit. Contrary to what you might think, SPF 30 isn’t twice as strong as SPF 15.
Babies and children have sensitive skin that is easily irritated by the chemicals found in adult sunscreens. Children’s sunscreens use ingredients less likely to irritate the skin, like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. For babies and children, avoid products that contain para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), sulisobenzone, oxybenzone or dioxybenzone.
How much sunscreen should I use?
You generally need approximately one ounce (the equivalent of a shot glass) applied to the overexposed areas. Sunscreen is best applied before going outdoors. Always re-apply it after participating in an activity where you may sweat. Although some sunscreen products claim they remain effective after swimming, they are in no way waterproof. it’s always best to re-apply sunscreen after drying off.
Wearing a hat and sunglasses with UV-A and UV-B type filtering and some type of clothing is always recommended and is much more effective than just sunscreen alone. Enjoy our beautiful Michigan summer safely!
For more health information, visit the Ask Dr. Vieder page at LakesUrgentCare.com.
Dr. Sanford Vieder, DO, FACEP, FACOEP, Medical Director at Lakes Urgent Care, West Bloomfield/Livonia.