Dermatologist from Lombard helps patient select sunscreen.

Everyone knows they should wear sunscreen, and if you don’t, please consider this a very BIG wake-up call. In fact, I bet if you ask any dermatologist what the most essential skin care product there is, the majority (if not all) would cite sunscreen.

But, when it comes to choosing the “right” sunscreen, it can be tough. There are quite a few factors to consider.  Here’s how we break things down:

SPF – Did You Know?

  • The SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, is a measure of a product’s ability to block UVB rays (not UVA).
  • If a sunscreen has an SPF 15, that means it will take 15x times longer for UVB rays to cause damage than no protection at all, depending on the unique characteristics of your skin.
  • A higher a SPF doesn’t necessarily mean better protection – anything higher than SPF 50 provides minimal increases in protection.
  • No sunscreen product should be expected to be effective for longer than 2 hours.

UVA vs. UVB Protection – Did You Know?

  • Damaging UVB rays are associated with sunburn; Damaging UVA rays are associated with skin aging and wrinkling.
  • A sunscreen labeled “broad-spectrum” provides protection against at least some of both UVA and UVB rays (not all).
  • Sunscreens vary in their ability to protect against UVA and UVB damage, even if they are broad-spectrum.

Physical vs. Chemical Sunscreen – Did You Know?

  • Physical sunscreens are naturally broad-spectrum and contain ingredients such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which sit on top of skin and block UV rays.
  • Chemical sunscreens absorb and change UV rays into heat, releasing from the skin to minimize damage.

Choosing a Sunscreen: Now You Know

  • Take SPF into consideration, but don’t rely on the number entirely. For most patients, SPF of 15-30 is appropriate, but don’t forget reapplication at least every 2 hours is key.
  • Reach for one labeled “Broad-Spectrum” to protect against both types of damaging rays.
  • Choosing a physical vs. chemical sunscreen depends on your lifestyle, skin type, and product consistency preference. There isn’t a right or wrong answer here!