You know you should wear sunscreen all the time by now, right? So now you have the task of seeking out the best sunscreen for you. Fortunately, learning to read the labels is all it takes to find the perfect bottle out there. Not all sunscreen is created equal so knowing what to look for is half the battle. Once you have the right product, it’s important to apply it anytime you’ll be getting sun exposure and then again every couple of hours afterward. Here’s what you should see on the label.
1. You Want a Broad Spectrum Sunscreen
There are two types of UV rays. One is UVA and one is UVB and together they cause sunburns and the signs of aging, as well as upping your risk of developing skin cancer. When you buy sunscreen, make sure the label declares is “broad spectrum.” That means it blocks both types of UV rays, keeping all of your bases covered.
2. You Want Very Specific Active Ingredients
The ingredients in sunscreen are what make it do its job of blocking the sun. Some items are better at this than others. Experts say you want a product that contains avobenzone, which is designed to absorb deeply into your skin, blocking UVA rays. The other ingredients you want to see are zinc oxide or titanium oxide. They both create a barrier on your skin, actively deflecting rays away from your body.
3. Look for a Water Resistant Formula if You Plan to Swim or Get Sweaty
No type of sunscreen is going to stay water resistant indefinitely, but you want to read the label to be sure how long yours will last. For example, you might see “water resistant for 90 minutes.” If you plan to swim outside or you are working out and will be hot and sweaty, you want a sunscreen that will continue to work for you. If you’ll be wet longer than the time on the label, make sure you reapply.
4. Make Sure You Get an Adequate SPF
SPF stands for sun protection factor and the higher the number, the more UVB rays the product will block. You will never find a sunscreen that blocks 100 percent of the rays, but something with an SPF of 45 or 50 will block most of them. That means you don’t have to get all crazy and buy SPF 90 or SPF 100 because they won’t do much more than your average SPF 50 and they aren’t as easy to find.
5. Is the Product Good for Sensitive Skin?
If you have sensitive skin, you know that wearing sunscreen can often aggravate the issue. That’s why you should scrutinize labels closely and be sure you buy something that is made for sensitive skin. That way you can stay sun safe without your skin having to suffer for it.
6. You Might Want to Check for the PA Rating
This rating was developed in Japan, but it is getting more popular in the United States and elsewhere. Not all sunscreen labels will have it yet, but it can’t hurt to check for it. The PA rating measures the precise amount of UVA protection the product provides. If you can’t find the PA rating, a broad spectrum sunscreen should still do the trick.
7. Check for an Expiration Date
Don’t just pull that old tube of sunscreen out of your medicine chest and assume it’s ok to use. Like most other products, sunscreen does have an expiration date and beyond that date it may not provide the sun protection you think it will. If the product is expired or you can’t find a date, toss and restock.
What do you look for in a sunscreen? Will you be checking for any of these things next time you buy?