Spring Break is almost here! As patients get ready to embark on trips to the beach, days spent at the lake or theme park, and spring break cruises, we are often asked: “What sunscreen should I be wearing?”
We usually defer to Consumer Reports’ annual release of testing results for the nation’s top sunscreen manufacturers. Some of their recent best buys included Equate Sports Lotion SPF 50 and Trader Joe’s spray SPF 50. That said, wearing the highest-rated sunscreens does not guarantee adequate protection.
What Do Sunscreen SPF Ratings Mean, Anyway?
SPF number is a rating system that gives you the relative strength of sun protection to UVB rays, relative to the unprotected skin. An SPF of 30 blocks 97% of the sun’s UVB rays. Because it is a logarithmic system, an SPF of 60 does not double your protection but adds a measly 1.5% more protection up to 98.5%. As long as the sunscreen is rated to an SPF of 30, proper use should provide more than adequate protection.
Why Sunscreen SPF Ratings Don’t Matter As Much As You Might Think
Of course testing will reveal significant differences in levels of protection between brands, SPF factors, and different price points, but these results need to be appreciated in the context of typical, real-world use of these products. In most cases, proper use of sunscreens far outweighs the differences between sunscreen brands and SPF numbers.
Another area that is commonly misjudged when using sunscreen is its water resistance. Even the most effective water-resistant sunscreens only maintain their proper effectiveness for about an hour with water exposure. Sunscreen must be reapplied more frequently when it gets wet, whether you are swimming or sweating.
How Much Sunscreen Should I Apply?
Studies show that most people use much less than the recommended amount required to meet the stated SPF. (Applying half the recommended amount will result in half the UVB protection.) For sunscreen lotions, one ounce (the amount that will fit in a shot glass) should cover a body in a swimsuit. Lotions should also be applied fifteen minutes before wet exposure to maximize water resistance. Our best tip? Apply your sunscreen the first time at home, when you put on your suit. Then reapply regularly during exposure.
Sunscreens lose their effectiveness over time by absorbing harmful UVB rays, and most major brands are using nearly identical combinations of active ingredients. With intense exposure, a sunscreen can lose half its SPF factor in 2 hours.
SPF 30 or Higher and Proper Use will Keep You Covered!
The bottom line? Proper use of sunscreen is far more important than brand differences or SPF numbers over 30. We suggest applying the proper amount before sun exposure, then reapply, reapply, reapply, reapply. And remember, sunscreen is only one part of an overall smart sun protection strategy, which should include protective clothing and avoiding exposure during peak hours.
This month we are offering our favorite sunscreen, elta MD, for $5 off! Give us a call or stop in to get yours today!