5 Tips for Choosing the Right Sunscreen

With the ever-expanding array of sunscreens available today, it is difficult to know which one to choose. Here are a few things to consider to help you choose the best product for your needs.

SUN PROTECTION FACTOR

Choose a product with an SPF of at least 30.

The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is a measure of protection against UVB rays from the sun. The higher the sunscreen SPF, the more protection it provides from UVB rays. However, it is worth knowing that for anything above SPF 30, these gains are minimal:

SPF 30: 96.7% of UVB rays are blocked
SPF 50: 98% of UVB rays are blocked
SPF 60: 98.3% of UVB rays are blocked

PROTECTION AGAINST UVA AND UVB

Make sure the sunscreen also protects against UVA radiation.

Filters are active ingredients contained in sunscreens that protect skin against UVA and UVB rays from the sun. There are two types:

  • Synthetic (or chemical) filters transform UVA or UVB rays, rendering them harmless. Often, more than one chemical filter is required in a single product to obtain proper protection against all UVA and UVB rays.
  • Mineral filters (zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) form a reflective barrier on the skin’s surface. They offer protection against UVA and UVB rays alike.

To ensure your sunscreen provides adequate protection against both UVA and UVB radiation, look for the words “Broad Spectrum” or the UVA logo on the label.

WATER RESISTANCE

Opt for a water-resistant product for the swimmers and sports enthusiasts in the family.

The water resistance of the sunscreen is indicated on the packaging: either 40 or 80 minutes. But remember, any time you wipe your skin with a towel, you remove part of the product and reduce its efficacy. So, it is important to reapply the product even if you haven’t yet reached the water resistance limit.

EASE OF APPLICATION

Consider how easy the product is to apply.

Sunscreens come in various forms: creams, lotions, sprays, sticks, and others, each with its pros and cons. For example:

  • Creams and lotions are useful for large surfaces. Lotions are runnier, and don’t leave an oily residue the way some creams do, which makes them a good option for the face too.
  • Sprays are convenient for protecting hard-to-reach parts of the skin, but be sure you’re out of the wind when you apply it. Never spray sunscreen directly on the face. Instead, spray it on the palms of your hands, then spread on face.
  • Sticks are handy for applying sunscreen to the face, as they reduce the risk of getting the product in your eyes. When using a stick to cover large surfaces of skin, make sure you rub the product in thoroughly with your hands so you don’t leave any parts unprotected.
  • Gels can be a good option for hairy skin (chest, legs, scalp)

No matter which form you prefer, don’t forget your lips! To protect your lips, use a lip balm with an SPF of at least 30 and reapply every hour when you are outdoors.

SUNSCREEN PRESERVATION

Protect your sunscreen from extreme temperature, and never use expired products.

To prevent sunscreens from deteriorating too fast, always store them away from sources of heat. Do not leave them in the car.

Do not use the product once it has passed the expiration date.

No matter which product you use, apply it regularly and generously.

Even the very best sunscreen will not protect you properly if you don’t apply enough of it. It takes about 7 teaspoons (35 mL) of cream or lotion to cover an adult’s entire body:

  • 1 tsp for each arm and leg
  • 1 tsp for the front and 1 tsp for the back of the torso
  • 1 tsp for the face

Remember to apply sunscreen on these often-forgotten areas: your hands, the tip of your nose and ears, the back of your neck, and the top of your feet.

Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours, because its protective effect diminishes over time in the sun. Always reapply after swimming or partaking in an activity where you sweat a lot.