Have you been shopping for sunscreen lately? The number of choices is mind-boggling, as are the lists of ingredients. Then again, nothing spoils a nice summer day faster than a blistering sunburn. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and UV radiation from the sun is the main cause, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Sunscreen can block UV radiation and lower your risk of developing skin cancer.
Here are 5 Things to Know about your Sunscreen
- light skin color
- skin that freckles or burns easily
- blond or red hair
- blue or green eyes
- a family history of skin cancer
2. The sun can cause damage to your skin in as little as 15 minutes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s why you need to apply sunscreen before you leave the house, and even if it’s a cloudy day.
3. Sunscreen doesn’t last long. If you’re outdoors more than a couple of hours, you need to reapply your sunscreen. You also need to reapply after swimming or if you perspire a lot.
4. Sunscreen labels are confusing. Here are a few terms to know:
- UVB is a short wave ultraviolet ray that can burn or damage your skin and cause skin cancer.
- UVA is a longer ultraviolet wave that causes long-term damage, skin aging, and skin cancer.
- SPF is short for “Sun Protection Factor.” It’s a guide to a sunscreen’s power to prevent damage to the skin. According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, if it takes 20 minutes for your unprotected skin to begin turning red, a SPF 15 may prevent reddening 15 times longer.
- Broad-Spectrum means it protects you from both UVA and UVB rays.
5. Not all sunscreens are alike. Some may even pose a health risk.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recommends avoiding sunscreen containing:
- Vitamin A, or retinal palmitate, as it may speed the growth of skin tumors.
- Super high SPF (50+) sunscreens because although they protect you from sunburn, they leave you exposed to UVA rays.
- Oxybenzone, because it can get into the bloodstream and acts like estrogen. It can also trigger allergic reactions.
Another ingredient in some sunscreens is titanium dioxide. It’s a great sunblocker, but there are questions about its safety because it’s toxic when inhaled in its dry powder form. There haven’t been enough studies to determine whether other forms of titanium dioxide are dangerous, so the ACS suggests that if you have concerns, you choose a product that does not have this ingredient. Other suggestions from the ACS:
- use broad-spectrum UV radiation blockers with SPF of 30 or more
- avoid the midday sun
- cover your skin to protect it from the sun
- wear sunglasses to protect your eyes
- don’t use tanning beds
The EWG provides information on specific ingredients in sunscreen products. For more information, visit: 149 Beach & Sport Sunscreens that Meet EWG Criteria.