Sunscreens: What You Need to Know

Sunscreens have come a long way since we were kids. Coppertone was the big brand then, bikinis were still considered a bit scandalous, and everyone was using tanning oil. We all had sunburns, but I (Susan) had the worst. The first time she I wore a two piece, a yellow homemade swimsuit, was on an all-day Galveston beach trip with the other young teens in my Sunday School class. I cam home lobster red, and the next day had sun boils and was sun sick for days. Now I deck out from head to toe in sunscreen and sun protective gear. 

Before you head out to the beach or pool, make sure you protect your skin and your family's from the harmful effects of UV rays. Here how to choose and use the best sunscreens for summer.

What coverage is needed?

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends using a sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection, meaning it blocks both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays can cause premature aging, wrinkles, and dark spots, while UVB rays can cause sunburn and skin cancer. The AAD also advises using a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30, which means it filters out 97% of UVB rays. Higher SPF values offer slightly more protection, but no sunscreen can block 100% of UV rays.

Remember to also wear protective clothing, hats, sunglasses and seek shade whenever possible to further reduce your exposure to UV rays.

Safe for Kids

Children have more sensitive skin than adults, so they need sunscreens that are gentle and hypoallergenic. The AAD recommends using mineral sunscreens that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the active ingredients, as they are less likely to cause irritation or allergic reactions. Some examples of mineral sunscreens for children are Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Sensitive Skin Zinc Oxide Sunscreen, SPF 50, and Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 50. Avoid using sunscreens with oxybenzone, a chemical that has been linked to health and environmental concerns.

Best for the Beach

If you plan to swim or sweat a lot, you need a sunscreen that is water-resistant and durable. The AAD suggests looking for sunscreens that are labeled as water-resistant for up to 40 or 80 minutes, depending on how long you intend to stay in the water. Some examples of water-resistant sunscreens for the beach are Supergoop! Play Antioxidant Body Mist, SPF 50 and Sun Bum Original Moisturizing Sunscreen Spray, SPF 50. However, water-resistant does not mean waterproof, so you still need to reapply sunscreen after getting wet or drying off with a towel.

Best for the Face

The face is one of the most exposed areas of the body, so it needs extra care and protection from the sun. The AAD recommends using a sunscreen that is non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t clog pores or cause breakouts. Some examples of non-comedogenic sunscreens for the face are CeraVe Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 50 and EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen, SPF 46. If you want to add some color and coverage to your complexion, you can also opt for a tinted sunscreen that matches your skin tone. Some examples of tinted sunscreens for the face are EltaMD UV Daily Tinted Sunscreen with Zinc Oxide, SPF 40 Face Sunscreen Moisturizer