Shopping for the right type of sunscreen can pose quite the challenge, especially given the complicated, clinical lingo on most brands of sunscreen. With terms such as broad spectrum, SPF, waterproof vs. water-resistant, chemical vs. physical, sports, and baby, it’s no wonder consumers are confused when it comes to settling on a sunscreen that offers the best protection.
Want to protect your skin but aren’t sure which sunscreen to use? Here’s your guide to demystifying terms on sunscreen labels so you can choose the best type for you.
SPF, or “sunburn protection factor”
Most people understand that the higher the SPF, the better protection they’ll have from the sun. SPF stands for “sunburn protection factor,” and is generally defined by the FDA as how well a sunscreen can protect you from sunburn.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) suggests using sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher for optimal protection. The number of an SPF is the amount of UVB (ultraviolet B, or burning) rays sunscreen can effectively filter out.
Broad spectrum sunscreen
Broad spectrum sunscreen protects your skin from the sun’s UVA (ultraviolet A, or aging) and UVB rays, and helps prevent sunburn, skin cancer, and signs of premature aging such as fine lines, wrinkles, age spots, and sagging skin.
When shopping for sunscreen, look for brands that offer broad spectrum protection for optimal safety.
Waterproof vs. water-resistant sunscreen
Don’t be fooled by sunscreen brands that advertise being waterproof, since the FDA has ruled there’s no such thing as waterproof sunscreen, especially since it can easily be washed away by sweat and water.
Instead, use sunscreen brands labeled as water-resistant. Water-resistant sunscreens are designed to stay on your skin for between 40 and 80 minutes before they require reapplication. To stay on the safe side, reapply sunscreen every two hours.
“Sports” sunscreens are often marketed toward those who exercise and play sports, and are no different from water-resistant sunscreens that can stay on your skin for between 40 and 80 minutes. For instance, UV Sport Water-Resistant Broad Spectrum SPF 50 by EltaMD is effective for those with active lifestyles who also want to prevent sun-damaged skin, fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots.
Chemical vs. physical sunscreens
Chemical sunscreens help protect your skin by absorbing the sun’s UVA and UVB rays, and often contain one or more active ingredients, such as avobenzene and oxybenzone.
Physical sunscreens, on the other hand, help protect your skin by deflecting -- instead of absorbing — the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. The active ingredients in physical sunscreens are usually zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
Both types of sunscreen are equally effective at helping protect your skin from the sun.
“Baby” sunscreens often contain the same active ingredients as physical sunscreens, and are comprised of ingredients less likely to irritate sensitive skin — including those of babies’. In most cases, baby sunscreens are hypoallergenic and designed for use on all skin types.
Are you in need of sunscreens that help protect your skin from the sun while also providing nourishment and hydration? Visit Monarch Skin Rejuvenation Center Skin Store to browse our line of sunscreen products, or request a consultation with one of our licensed aestheticians at Monarch Skin Rejuvenation Center to learn more about skin care.