Sunscreen Terminology

The following definitions will help you understand what to look for and why when choosing a sunscreen. Look for sunscreen that provides SPF protection from both UVA and UVB rays. These sunscreens either reflect or absorb UV rays so that they don’t penetrate the skin as much.

UV: Ultraviolet. Ultraviolet radiation or UV rays from the sun damage the skin. UV rays are at work even on cloudy days and are at their worst during peak sun hours, usually between 10 am and 2 pm. If possible, avoid being in the sun during these hours. If you must be in the sun, wear protective clothing, use appropriate sunscreen, and stay well hydrated.

There are two types of UV light that can harm your skin, UVA and UVB rays.

UVA: UVA rays prematurely age your skin and cause wrinkles and age spots.

UVB: UVB rays are the ones that cause your skin to burn.

SPF: SPF is sun protection factor. It is determined by the time it takes for skin to burn with sunscreen applied compared to skin with no sunscreen. SPF 15 is the standard used. SPF 30 provides only slightly more protection and SPFs of 50 or more, still only provide slightly more UV protection. This measure is only for UVB rays; there is no rating for UVA rays.

When shopping for sunscreen, look for brands that are water-resistant, broad spectrum, with an SPF of at least 15. With those parameters in mind, buy a brand and style that you like. If you like it, you are more likely to use it!

Organic Sunscreen: these sunscreens usually contain such ingredients as PABA, cinnamates, salicylates, and benzophenones.

Inorganic Sunscreen: these sunscreens usually contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. They tend to be less irritating to the skin.

Remember that sunscreen that is not thickly or thoroughly applied will not be as effective. And if you are swimming or sweating, that also diminishes its ability. Make sure to reapply often.

Apply well – on all skin parts exposed to the sun – at least 15 minutes before going out in the sun.  Reapply at least every two hours, even if your sunscreen is water resistant. Use sunscreen even on cloudy days.

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