Sunscreen Confusion? I've got your back!

Friday, August 22, 2014 - 2:00am

First, it is important to know that there are basically 2 types of sunscreen: Chemical and Physical.   

Chemical Sunscreens (e.g. avobenzone, helioplex, and other's with unpronounceable names) undergo a chemical reaction with the UV rays, absorbing them and then release the extra energy as heat. The sunscreen's chemical reaction is only for a limited amount of time, hence you will have to reapply after 2-3 hours to ensure you are still protected.

Physical Sunscreens (e.g. zinc oxide, titanium dioxide) create a barrier of protection that reflect and scatter the UV rays. What's great about these sunscreens is that as long as the barrier is intact (meaning you haven't sweated or wiped it off), you will not need to reapply as frequently. 

What does Broad Spectrum mean?

It means that the sunscreen protects against both UVA (the "aging" rays that cause damage and cancer) and UVB (the "burning" rays that cause a sunburn). It is important to know that the physical block, titanium dioxide only protects against UVB rays so you will want to make sure that it is mixed with a UVA blocker (such as zinc oxide, which blocks both UVA and UVB rays).

What's up with the SPF 100???

No…you do not need to get a SPF 1,000,000 to make sure you have the best protection. In fact, the higher rating in chemical sunscreens means that you are only exposing yourself to excessive amounts of chemicals (which won't protect you any better than an SPF 30.) However, I would rather you use a 100 SPF sunscreen than no sunscreen…so slather up! And it is slowly being fazed out for purchase.

Are you using enough sunscreen to actually achieve the SPF rating? 

Most people use only 1/4 of the proper amount! The best rule of thumb is approximately one shot glass full of sunscreen for the body and a nickel-sized dollop for the face. Do not forget to reapply after swimming or sweating!

Does Sunscreen break you out? 

  • I totally understand. Most do. EltaMD Sunscreens are formulated without any pore-clogging ingredients. The Mineral Tinted SPF 41 is beautiful for the ladies and the Sensitive Skin SPF 40 is perfect for the guys! (and both are water and sweat resistant!) So, in short, the key elements to look for on a bottle of sunscreen are: Minimum 30 SPF (but don't go crazy and get the 100 SPF)
  • Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen
  • Make sure you use enough! Shot glass for the body, Nickel-size for the face
  • Reapply, reapply, reapply!
  • Bonus: Active Ingredients are Zinc Oxide and/or Titanium Dioxide
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