Let the “Truth Be Told”

This post was originally published July 11, 2012

Choosing the best sunscreen -- explanation of UVA vs. UVB vs. broad spectrum from Career Step Pharmacy Technician instructors

Question: Do all sunscreens provide UVB and UVA protection for your skin?

Answer: No. However, there are key things to look for on the label.

Amongst all the sunscreens out on the market, how do we know what to look for to ensure we are getting the adequate amount of protection against both of these harmful UV rays? New FDA sunscreen labeling requirements went into effect at the beginning of summer this year. There are now 3 key things to look for when choosing “the best” sunscreen.

  1. The first thing to look for on the label is “broad spectrum”. This ensures you receive both UVA and UVB protection. It was thought years ago that the only protection needed was against UVB radiation since it is known to be the major cause of sunburns. We now know that UVA rays contribute to not only skin damage, but cancer as well.
  2. If you’re planning on swimming, the FDA has now changed the way these “waterproof” sunscreens can be labeled. “Water resistant” is the only term you’ll see on new labels for products designed to stay on during outdoor activities. If you see sunscreens with the terms “waterproof” or “sweat proof” listed on the label, these were manufactured before the new guidelines went into effect; they ultimately don’t mean much since all sunscreens eventually wash off. For sunscreens to be labeled “water resistant”, they will be labeled as having a lasting effect for either 40 or 80 minutes after swimming or sweating.
  3. Choosing the right SPF is also a critical key to preventing sun-damaged skin. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a product of SPF 30 or more. The FDA has also put an upper limit on sunscreen; 50+ is the highest category for new labels. There is no evidence that anything higher provides greater protection.

Now that you know the key things to look for when choosing your sunscreen, go enjoy the outdoors; while knowing you and your family are well protected against UVB AND UVA rays. Remember, this is the only skin you will have for the rest of your life, take care of it. Below is a list of the current FDA-Approved Sunscreens.
fda sunscreen2

FDA:  http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm258416.htm
Skin Cancer Foundation: http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/uva-and-uvb

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