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Choosing and Using Your Sunscreen
Choosing SunscreenYou know the importance of sun protection, but when it comes to purchasing sunscreen, are you a savvy shopper or a clueless novice? Whether you need a refresher course in sun protection or an introduction, continue reading for the facts on keeping your skin safe.

Sunscreen: Two types
Sunscreen is classified into two categories: chemical and physical. Chemical ingredients reduce ultraviolet radiation as it penetrates the skin. Years ago chemical sunscreen only protected against UVB rays; however, today you can find UVA protection also. Make sure to look for Mexoryl™ and avobenzone (Parsol 1789®) on the label. Also known as sunblock, physical products contain the ingredients titanium dioxide or zinc oxide to block both UVB and UVA rays.

The first step in protecting yourself against sun damage is to make sure you buy and apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen, which protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Good choices include Skyn Iceland the Antidote SPF 18 Mineral Sunscreen and Jan Marini Antioxidant Face Protectant SPF 30.

Next focus your attention on SPF or the Sun Protection Factor, which indicates protection against UVB rays, not UVA. Dermatologists recommend using sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher for every day, year-round use, according to the American Melanoma Foundation. A good way to include sunscreen in your daily regimen is to use an SPF moisturizer, such as La Roche-Posay Anthelios SX Daily Moisturizer with SPF 15. But anyone with a condition that increases his or her sun sensitivity, fair skin or family history of skin cancer should wear SPF 30 or higher, according to WebMD. If you are going to be in the sun for any length of time engaging in outdoor activities, you should also choose an SPF of 30 or higher.

The value differences among SPFs aren’t proportional, a common misconception. The American Melanoma Foundation explains, "While an SPF of 2 will absorb 50 percent of ultraviolet radiation, an SPF of 15 absorbs 93 percent and an SPF of 34 absorbs 97 percent."

Another misconception is assuming the labels “water resistant” and “waterproof” mean the same thing. When sunscreen is considered water resistant, you can expect that it’ll protect you for 40 minutes in the water, according to the FDA’s definition. With waterproof protection, you can be in the water up to 80 minutes without reapplying. A good waterproof sunscreen option is Murad Waterproof Sunblock SPF 30.

When it come to kids, babies younger than six months shouldn’t be in the sun at all; for kids over six months, parents should purchase sunscreens specifically for children, because ingredients like para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), dioxybenzone, oxybenzone or sulisobenzone, typically found in adult formulas, will irritate children’s skin.

Kid-friendly sunscreens are also a great option for those with skin conditions or sensitive skin; similarly, look for products with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which are also found in children’s sunscreens anyway.

Using your sunscreen
Many of us think that after choosing our sunscreen we’ve accomplished the most important part of sun protection, but it’s actually the application that’s vital, Henry W. Lim, the dermatology department chair at Henry Ford Medical Center, tells WebMD. It seems a lot of us are applying sunscreen incorrectly.

The American Melanoma Foundation and WebMD highlight these important facts and tips on sun protection and year-round use.

  • On cloudy days, when you think the sun isn’t out, you forgo your sunscreen. A big no-no: 80 percent of ultraviolent radiation still passes through on overcast days.

  • The sun reflects 17 percent off sand and 80 percent off snow.

  • Every time altitude increases by 1,000 feet, there’s a 4 percent increase in UV radiation.

  • Don’t forget spots like the lips, ears, feet and the back of your legs. For lips, invest in a lip balm with SPF 15 or higher.

  • Apply an ounce of sunscreen to all exposed areas 30 minutes before you go outside. According to WebMD, "A number of studies show that people simply don't use enough – and only get 10 percent to 25 percent of the benefit."

  • Apply sunscreen every two hours.

  • Look at the expiration date on sunscreen.

  • Though sunscreen is vital to safeguard against photoaging and skin cancer, it doesn’t provide full protection against UV rays, no matter the SPF or heavy application, cautions WebMD, and neither does your average clothing. So make sure you follow these additional sun protection tips: wear sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat and sun-protective clothes; avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.; and stay in the shade.


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