It’s been a long, cold, lonely winter (okay enough with the Beatles lyrics), but now the sun is starting to shine and the weather is warming up. Many of us have busted out the tank tops, shorts, swimsuits, and spaghetti strapped summer dresses. Before you head out the door to enjoy some fun in the sun, don’t forget to get out the sunscreen or pay the price. But which sunscreen should you buy? These days choosing a sunscreen is like choosing athletic shoes, there are a million different styles and they all make different claims. So do you get SPF 15 or 50? What does “water resistant” mean? Why would I want a “natural” product? Much like choosing a pair of sneakers the answer to those questions depends on what you’re planning on doing when you go out. Let’s start with the basics.
Sunscreen is regulated by the FDA so you know that the claims on the package meet the federal government’s latest safety guidelines. In order to choose wisely though, you will need to understand the terminology you’ll be seeing on those packages.
SPF (sun protection factor): The higher the number the more protection you get from UVB rays; which are the ones that turn you into an upright walking lobster after a few hours in the sun. But keep in mind that the protection doesn’t go up proportionally as the SPF numbers go up. What does that mean? SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays. SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays, double the SPF numbers but only about a 4% difference in protection. And after SPF 50 there’s almost no difference at all.
Water resistant: No sunscreen is waterproof but water resistant sunscreens will stay on longer if you hop in the water or work up a sweat. But they still need to be re-applied regularly.
Broad spectrum: This means it blocks both UVB and UVA rays, which are responsible for causing signs of aging in the skin.
Expiration date: Oh yea sunscreen can go as bad as potato salad left in the sun. Not only will it lose its skin protecting abilities over time but it will also start to breed bacteria, yuck! Get a new bottle every summer.
Here’s a guide for choosing the right sunscreen for every occasion.
Headed to the beach: When you’re at the beach you want a sunscreen that will shield you from the intensity of the sun and stay on if you choose to take a quick dip. We suggest Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry- Touch Sunscreen, SPF55 and Sun Bum PRO Sunscreen, SPF50.
Going out for a run or playing some beach volleyball: A sport sunscreen has been especially formulated to hold up to heavy sweating. We suggest EltaMD SPF 50 UV sport Water Resistant Sunscreen and Coppertone Sport Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50.
Headed to the office: If you’re not planning a full day in the sun but want to protect yourself in case you decide to go out for lunch at that great bistro with the outdoor patio our daily facial sunscreen suggestions are Olay Complete Daily Defense All Day Moisturizer with Sunscreen SPF 30 and Eucerin Dailey Protection Moisturizing Face Lotion SPF 30
Got sensitive skin: If your skin is sensitive to harsh chemicals you may want to try a natural sunscreen product. We liked Beyond Coastal Natural SPF30 Sunscreen and Johnson & Johnson Baby Daily Face and Body Sunscreen Lotion SPF 40.