As summer is descending upon us, the annual question arises of whether to wear sunscreen, and which sunscreen to wear when you’re out and about or on vacation at the pool or beach.
Experts differ a little on sunscreen usage. On one hand, vitamin D deficiency is at an all time high and most people never get enough of it, which causes many other chronic health issues. On the other hand, melanoma (skin cancer) is on the rise as well and we need to protect ourselves against it.
The best way to think about it is, get your daily sunlight on your skin. However, don’t allow your skin to turn pink, red, or burn. As long as you avoid getting overexposure, you are not in danger of getting skin cancer. How much sun you need or can handle will depend from person to person, as different skin colors and ethnicities will have influence on this.
So it seems that some sunscreen use may be useful and beneficial for most of us. But there is such a dazzling array on the market, from conventional types to “health” store types, all with various different active ingredients. How do we know which one to pick?
All sunscreens have an “SPF” number. This simply means a level of protection of how many minutes a particular sunscreen will allow someone to stay in the sun without getting burned compared to have no protection.
Most sunscreens out there will offer broad spectrum protection from both UVA and UVB rays. However, the SPF values can be vastly different in each – anywhere from 2 to 100.
The thing you should realize about SPF numbers is that in the end, it is highly individualized and can be different for each person with a different skin type. For example, a lighter skinned person would get a shorter amount of protection from something labelled SPF 30 than a darker skinned person.
As a general rule, SPF 30 should be your minimum number if you are going to bother with a sunscreen at all. However, there is an upper limit where the benefits start to fade. SPF 55 and higher is probably not worth your money. In reality, all sunscreens need to be re-applied every 2 hours anyway. So it would probably be better to pay for a lower SPF formula and just apply it correctly.
If you’re using a sprayed-on product, be sure to apply it in an area that is not windy, otherwise you’re just throwing your money away and not getting any benefits on your skin.
Because most sunscreens do contain dangerous chemicals, it might be wise to consider clothing that has UV protection instead of using a chemical sunscreen. Regular clothes can protect you to a certain degree (for example, a t-shirt has an SPF 3) but specialty UV clothing usually has an SPF of between 30 and 50, and most of them are made of special fabric so you can wear it in or out of the water. The best thing about it is, you do not need to reapply – your SPF benefits will stay as long as you keep the clothing on.
In the end, the best sunblock for you is the one that you’re most comfortable with, so experiment and see which ones work best for your lifestyle and your skin.