When it comes to protecting ourselves from sun-damaged skin, there’s one thing most of us need to admit: we’re completely lost about sun care and choosing a sunscreen. But knowing what to look for in a good sunscreen—knowing what will really prevent sun-damaged skin—is not as complex as the long aisles of SPF 100s and waterproof creams might have us believe. Sun care is a lot easier when you know what to look for and what to avoid.
So, to make it even simpler, here are the top truths to remember when it comes to choosing a sunscreen that best prevents leathery, irritable sun-damaged skin.
1. Higher SPFs aren’t better.
While it seems logical that a hefty SPF 100 provides much more protection than the common SPF 15, most healthcare professionals continue to recommend an SPF 15 or SPF 30 sunscreen for everyday use. The problem with higher SPFs is that many people believe that they can slap on less sunscreen and stay out longer in the sun without worrying about sun-damaged skin; however, no matter the SPF, sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours to really prevent sun-damaged skin. Plus, a sunscreen’s SPF rating only applies to its ability to block out UVB rays—but UVA rays are the culprits when it comes to sun-damaged skin.
2. Sun blocks and sunscreens are not the same.
While most people use “sunscreen” to refer to sun blocks as well, the labeling on the bottle really makes a difference in what that product offers. Sun blocks do just as the name suggests: they block the sun from reaching your skin, minimizing your risk of sun-damaged skin. Sun blocks use titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, and form a layer on the skin’s surface that reflects both UVA and UVB rays. Sun blocks tend to be greasier to the touch. Sun blocks are broad spectrum, meaning they fight off both UVA and UVB rays to prevent sun-damaged skin.
Sunscreens, on the other hand, use chemicals that soak into the skin, filtering and breaking down any UVA and UVB rays that have been absorbed by the skin. It is important to note that not all sunscreens protect against UVB and UVA rays—always search for “full spectrum” or “broad spectrum” for the best protection against sun-damaged skin.
3. Sunscreens aren’t your only defense against sun-damaged skin.
While most people apply lots of sunscreen to their arms, legs, and face, there are many areas that also need to be protected from sun-damaged skin that many don’t even think about. Sunscreen on your face is a good start, but sunglasses and a lip balm with an SPF of at least 15 really go the extra mile to prevent sun-damaged skin. Sunglasses that block out both UVA and UVB rays are especially beneficial in protecting the delicate skin around your eyes.
When it comes to protecting yourself from sun-damaged skin, a little education goes a long way. No two sun care products are created equally, so it’s best to know what you really need before you start down that sun protection aisle in your local drug store.
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