What to look for when buying a product with SPF
Most experts recommend checking the list of ingredients for two things: the first is to see if the product provides broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) coverage; the second is to see if the broad-spectrum sunscreen contains avobenzone, titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. All provide excellent UVA protection.
What’s the deal with UVA and UVB?
Both are types of sun radiation. UVB damages the outer layer of the skin and causes sunburns, boo!
An SPF number refers to the UVB burning protection a product offers (one with an SPF of 15 allows the wearer to stay in the sun 15 times longer than she would otherwise be able to).
But now we know that UVA rays, while they don’t cause sunburns, do damage the skin’s deeper layers. They work insidiously, wrinkling and spotting skin from within, destroying its elasticity. Like UVB rays, UVA rays are also believed to be a potential cause of skin cancer (melanoma).
Use it or lose it…
Don’t be chintzy with your sunscreen! The American Academy of Dermatology suggests using at least one ounce (about a shot glass full) of sunscreen on exposed skin every day. And don’t be shy about reapplying throughout the day. Experts say frequent application is key to maintaining good sun protection.
The American Academy of Dermatology Seal of Recognition
It can be overwhelming to choose a sunscreen because of all the choices available. To help consumers choose products that provide the sun protection recommended by dermatologists, the American Academy of Dermatology has started a program called the “AAD Seal of Recognition.”
But the program has attracted a certain amount of controversy. When applying for the seal, manufacturers are obliged to pay $5,000 for the application, $10,000 on approval of the application and a further $10,000 a year later. Your best bet remains knowing (because knowledge is power!) which ingredients to look for (the most effective ones being avobenzone/Parsol 1789, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) when shopping for a product with sunscreen.