Open Accessibility Menu

What to Look For When Selecting a Sunscreen

  • Category: Cancer, Dermatology
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Baton Rouge General
What to Look For When Selecting a Sunscreen

We all know the importance of wearing SPF every day to protect the skin from sun damage and to prevent skin cancer. Walking down the sunscreen aisle can be overwhelming with so many options to choose from.

Recent reports have found many popular sunscreen brands were contaminated with benzene, a harmful carcinogen linked to leukemia, lung, liver, breast, ovary and GI Tract cancers making it even harder to know what to look for in a brand and which products to choose.

Here is what you need to know to help you pick the best sun protection without all the harmful ingredients for you and your family as you head into these summer months.

Why Broad-Spectrum Matters: Experts suggest that consumers stick with sunscreens that are labeled “broad-spectrum”. This ensures you have both UVA and UVB protection. UVA rays cause wrinkles and deep surface damage that contributes to skin cancer while UVB rays cause sunburn which can lead skin cancer. It is important to remember that UVA rays are present all year long at about the same intensity, even when it is cloudy outside.

Know the Ingredients: Choose brands that include titanium dioxide or zinc oxide as they reflect the suns rays from your skin. Experts lean more towards mineral (also known as physical) sunscreen if you have sensitive skin, heat sensitivities, or if you are using the sunscreen on babies 6 months or older because the mineral formula sits on top of the skin to block UVA and UVB rays. Some of these popular brands include Aveeno Baby, Badger, Drunk Elephant, Blue Lizard, and Thinksports to name a few.

Health officials have warned against certain ingredients as they can lead to significant health issues:

  • Avobenzone- commonly used to block the full range of UVA rays, but is considered “unstable” and degrades when exposed to the sun resulting in allowing harmful free radicals to be released into the body accelerating the aging process and increasing the risk of illness and cancer.
  • Oxybenzone- is considered hazardous to the eye and is known to cause skin allergies. More importantly is causes hormone disruption in humans, affecting estrogen production in women and testosterone production in men.
  • Octinoxate- included in many skin care products to make your complexion look better, it has been linked to acne and can cause skin reactions including contact dermatitis.
  • Retinyl palmitate- a form of vitamin A that can cause health problems including liver damage, hair loss, osteoporosis, and hip fractures in older adults.

Go for Water-Resistant Options: No sunscreen is waterproof or sweatproof, so you should opt for sunscreens that are water and sweat resistant. Labels can say “water-resistant” only if the sunscreen remains effective for 40 or 80 minutes while swimming or sweating. Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours to help prevent sun damage.

Know why SPF matters: Sun protection factor or SPF helps to block your skin from the sun’s radiation and works to extend your skin’s defenses from the sun. And SPF of 15 provides 15 times more protection than just your normal skin without sunscreen. An SPF of 50, then, would provide 50 times more protection than not wearing any sunscreen. The higher the SPF the greater the protection, so when in doubt, go with a 50 or higher.

Babies under 6 months old should not use sunscreen. This does not mean they are not at risk of sun damage, but that sunscreen can potentially be harmful in young babies. Babies under 6 months old are at a greater risk of side effects from the chemicals in sunscreen and should be kept in the shade, indoors or clothed to prevent sun exposure.

A good sunscreen is essential to any skincare routine even if you aren’t going outside. Sunscreen worn daily can protect against harmful rays that can penetrate windows and protects against the blue-light from computer and smartphone screens that can damage the skin.