The sunscreen shelves in stores offer a wide array of creams, lotions and sprays. Thanks to new FDA regulation of sunscreen labeling, it has become easier for the consumer to select products with optimal ultraviolet protection.
It helps to understand what some terms mean, including these:
• The SPF
number indicates how well a sunscreen protects against ultraviolet B (UVB) rays and sunburn.
• Broad spectrum
is the term used to indicate protection from ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B, both of which contribute to increased risk of skin cancer.
- Our dermatologists recommend looking for a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF greater than 30. Broad spectrum means it will protect you against both sunburn and lower risk of skin cancer.
- Consumers should look for labels which include avobenzone or ecamsule for UVA protection, often in a photostabilized combination with a UVB-protective compound.
- Sunscreen needs to be on for 15 to 20 minutes before you are protected. After going into the water or sweating heavily, reapply according to the directions on the bottle.
- For infants and children, try using sunscreens with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide which reflect rather than absorb UV light and protect against UVA and UVB rays. These are also excellent products for use by adults.
- Our team also suggests using creams or lotions rather than sprays because coverage with sprays can be incomplete. And if the bottle is one or more years old, replace it.
- Regular sunscreen use has been shown to reduce the risk of squamous cell cancer (highly treatable, about 16 percent of skin cancers) and potentially basal cell cancer (highly treatable, 80 percent of skin cancers) and melanoma (potentially deadly, 4 percent of skin cancers).
- Clothing is helpful in shielding most areas of the body, but if you can see light through it, you are getting ultraviolet exposure, said Dr. Crowe. A white T shirt, for instance, only has an SPF of about 7. Aim for darker clothing which is opaque and has a tight weave.