Aug 01, 2022 11:00 AM

Author: University of Utah Health Communications


Información en español

Infographic explains different types of sunscreen and the one that is best for you.

When you spend time outdoors, remember to wear sunscreen, a hat, and protective clothing. Even in the fall and winter, cooler days do not give us a pass on “screen time” for exposed skin.

The Best Sunscreen for You

The best sunscreen is one you will actually use, according to Jessica Donigan, MD, FAAD, assistant professor in the Department of Dermatology at University of Utah Health. Generally, stick sunscreens are good for the eye area, lotions are great for the face, and spray-on sunscreens are convenient for children. Just be sure to spray until it glistens and then rub it in.  Most importantly, apply sunscreen every two hours or after swimming.

Chemical vs. Physical Sunscreen

Chemical sunscreens contain ingredients like oxybenzone, avobenzone, and octocrylene. They are invisible once applied. But people with sensitive skin may prefer physical sunscreens containing titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide. These deflect UV rays but may leave a white film. While you should buy sunscreen that is water resistant, remember that no sunscreen is waterproof.

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough to Keep UV From You

Whichever sunscreen you use, make sure it is labeled broad spectrum. Broad spectrum sunscreen blocks UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays are longer than UVA rays. They can damage your skin year-round, especially at high altitudes and when you are out on reflective surfaces like snow, water, and sand. However, UVB rays do not penetrate glass like shorter UVA rays do.

SPF Basics

Sun protection factor (SPF) is a measure of how much UV radiation it takes to cause a sunburn when wearing sunscreen. The higher the SPF, the greater the protection. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. But be warned that no sunscreen is 100% protective, and higher SPF sunscreens need to be reapplied as frequently as those with lower SPFs.

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