What is the best Sunscreen?
June 20, 2022
Does Sunscreen Really Work?
For years, we’ve heard that we need to slather on sunscreens with the highest SPF available to protect our skin from harmful UV radiation.
The truth is that a sunscreen with SPF higher than 50 probably won’t offer much more protection than what you can get on sale at the convenience store.
SPF, short for “sun protection factor,” is a measure of how well a sunscreen protects you from UVB rays that cause sunburn and play a role in developing skin cancer. Most sunscreens labeled “broad spectrum” also offer protection against UVA rays, which cause skin damage that leads to tanning, skin aging, and wrinkles. Short wavelengths of UVA rays also contribute to sunburn.
Though you might think an SPF 100 would give you twice the protection as an SPF 50 sunscreen, it does not. The Skin Cancer Foundation points out that higher-SPF products are only marginally better at shielding you from UVB rays. As the Environmental Working Group report on sunscreens makes clear, SPF 30 blocks nearly 97% of UVB radiation, SPF 50 blocks about 98%, and SPF 100 blocks about 99%.
What Should I Use To Protect Myself From The Sun?
You’re reasonably protected from the sun’s rays if you properly use a product with an SPF of between 30 and 50.
High-SPF products are formulated to block more UVB rays, but they must use higher concentrations of sun-filtering chemicals than lower SPF sunscreens. Some of these chemicals may pose health risks when they penetrate the skin. Some have been linked to tissue damage and potential hormone disruption. Some may trigger allergic skin reactions.
Sunscreen Alone Isn’t Enough
Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by a high-SPF product. People who use them tend to stay out in the sun longer. No sunscreen can protect you if you stay out too long. To maximize the protection of sunscreen, follow some simple rules:
- Apply it a half hour before going outdoors to give it time to activate.
- Reapply it every two hours – more often if you’re sweating or swimming.
- Get in the shade when possible. Wear a brimmed hat, light clothing, or get under a shade-providing tree or structure.
- Wear UV-blocking sunglasses to protect your eyes.
Use Common Sense
For some people, the best sun protection is staying out of the sun as much as possible. That’s the approach you should consider if you have a history or high risk of skin cancer, genetic diseases like albinism or xeroderma pigmentosum, or some immune disorders.
You can still enjoy sunny weather but just need to be more cautious.
Get The Care You Need
Talk to a doctor if you have questions about how to best protect yourself or your loved ones during sunny summer days. If you do not have a doctor, Grady can help. If you need a primary care physician, call us at (404) 616-1000. We’ll arrange an appointment at a Primary Care Center near you. Doctors there can treat most conditions and provide access to Grady’s unparalleled medical specialty expertise.