Broaden your spectrum when choosing sunscreen
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Fun in the sun could be dangerous if you're not wearing the right sunscreen. Doctors say you want one with broad spectrum coverage, offering protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
"The UVA rays are the deeper penetrating rays that cause skin cancer, but they also damage the collagen and elastic tissue which gives you all those wrinkles. UVB rays are the rays that cause burning," explains Licensed Dermatologist Dr. Debra Jaliman.
To protect against UVB rays, a sunscreen with at least a sun protection factor or SPF of 30 is recommended whether you have light or dark skin.
"An SPF of 30 you're going to block out 96 percent of UVB rays - you're not going to get a sunburn. However, you're not protected against skin aging and skin cancer as these are primarily caused by UVA," says Licensed Dermatologist Dr. Dina Anderson.
Most sunscreens have either physical or chemical blockers to protect against UVA rays. Chemical blockers, like the widely used avobenzone, also known as Parsol 1789, absorb UV radiation, while physical blockers - which tend to be more chalky - primarily reflect it.
"My favorites are the physical blockers so those are zinc oxidide and titanium dioxide. Look for a high percentage so you can look for a five percent or 10 percent and you know you're getting good UVA protection," Jaliman suggests. "What's great about physical blockers is they are not irritating to the skin."
Experts say it's best for babies six months and older and those with sensitive skin to use physical blockers.
It's recommended you apply a generous amount of sunscreen to all exposed areas, including lips, at least 20 minutes before heading outdoors. Doctors say you'll need to reapply every two hours depending on the amount of sun exposure and if you're hitting the water because there is no such thing as water or sweatproof sunscreen, regardless of what some of the current labels say.
And aside from wearing sunscreen, experts suggest you limit sun exposure, wear a hat, cover up, and get an annual skin check with your dermatologist because the earlier you catch skin cancer, the easier it is to fight it.