What You Need to Know About Sunscreens

Besides protecting you from overexposure to sunlight, sunscreens help prevent other problems related to sun exposure, such as aging skin and precancerous growths. There are a number of types of sunscreen you can get -- lotions, gels, and sprays, and there are also sunscreens made for specific purposes, such as for sensitive skin, scalps, and babies.

You should always pick a sunscreen that has an SPF of 15 or higher as well as one that protects you 
against a broad spectrum of UVA and UVB rays. Other things you may want to look for in a sunscreen include:

  • A product that is resistant to water, which will continue to protect your skin while you are swimming or exercising  
  • A product that doesn't sting when it is applied to sensitive areas such as your face or children's skin  
  • A product that is PABA-free

Below are questions that are commonly asked regarding sunscreens.

What does a sunscreen's "SPF" rating mean?

Sunscreens are rated according to their effectiveness in offering protection from UV rays and then are assigned a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) number. Higher numbers mean more protection. You should always use a sunscreen of at least SPF 15.

Do sunscreens need to be reapplied during the course of a day?

You always should follow manufacturers directions regarding reapplication of sunscreen, or else you will not get the maximum protection. Though recently developed sunscreens are more resistant to loss through perspiration and water, they still should be reapplied frequently, especially during peak sun hours or after swimming or exercising.

How do sunscreens work?

Most sun protection products work by absorbing, reflecting, or scattering the sun's rays. 
Such products actually contain chemicals that interact with the skin to protect it from UV rays.

Some cosmetic products now claim to protect you from UV rays. Can they?

Cosmetics and lip protectors containing some of the same protective chemicals used by sunscreens are now on the market. Not all of these products meet the standard of having at least SPF 15, and do not offer sufficient protection by themselves.

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