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Understanding Your Sunscreen Options

The month of May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. It’s time to really understand what exactly you should have in your sunscreen and what you shouldn’t. By better understanding what is in the sunscreen that is meant to protect you, you will hopefully have the knowledge to protect yourself against the sun’s harmful rays.

There are two types of UV light that can harm your skin — UVA and UVB. A broad-spectrum, or full-spectrum, sunscreen is designed to protect you from both. UVA rays can penetrate deeply into your skin and suppress your immune system. This increases the risk of wrinkling and age spots. UVB rays can burn your skin. Too much exposure to both UVA and UVB rays raises your risk of skin tumors. The best sunscreen offers protection from all UV light.

SPF stands for sun protection factor, which is a measure of how well the sunscreen deflects UVB rays. Currently, there’s no standard for measuring UVA protection.  Manufacturers calculate SPF based on how long it takes to sunburn skin that’s been treated with the sunscreen as compared with skin that hasn’t been treated with sunscreen. Theoretically, the best sunscreen has the highest SPF number. Many dermatologists recommend using a product with an SPF of 30 or more. However, no one really agrees on a “good” SPF number. A sunscreen with an SPF of 60 might be better than one with an SPF of 30, but not necessarily — and the SPF 60 product isn’t likely to be twice as effective as the SPF 30 product.

Mineral Sunscreens

If you’d rather avoid benzone products, try a mineral-based sunscreen. Look for zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Neither of these seems to penetrate the skin, and sunscreens based on these ingredients appear to be safe as well as effective.

Sources: News.cancerconnect,com, (http://news.cancerconnect.com/may-is-national-skin-cancer-awareness-month-3)

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