Sunscreen products protect us from future skin cancer, premature aging, and other damaging effects. But with all the products on drug store shelves, what factors should we look for?

Here are some tips:

1. SPF “sun protection factor” is used to measure your sunburn protection. SPF 15 allows you to stay out 15 times longer than without protection. However SPF only refers to your protection from UVB rays.

2. Pick a broad spectrum sunscreen. Broad spectrum means that the sunscreen protects against both UVA & UVB rays. UVA rays penetrate deeper than UVB rays, which can cause skin cancers and accelerate skin aging. UVB rays are burning rays. Broad spectrum has ingredients such as 5% zinc oxide or avobenzone.

3. The FDA has announced that sunscreens with SPF 15 and lower with broad-spectrum coverage cannot include anti-aging and anticancer print on their labels. Studies have shown that SPFs below 15 do not provide an adequate level of sun protection.

4. Waterproof and sweat-proof products no longer exist. Sunscreen comes off as you go in the water or even when you perspire. New labeling will now say “water-resistant”. You must reapply every 40 to 80 minutes.

5. To get the SPF protection on the label, you must use a “shot glass” amount to cover your face. If you use less than that, you are not getting the SPF on the label. So go higher in SPF if you are using less quantity of sunscreen.

By: Lily Talakoub MD and Tiffany Poetranto

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