When the summer sun is beating down, slathering sunscreen on yourself and your family is easy to remember. However, with an onslaught of sunscreens in recent years choosing that sunscreen isn't so easy.
There are a myriad of ingredients in many different sunscreens and it can be hard to know what your best choice is.
The good news is that newer sunscreens offer greater protection from the dangerous ultraviolet rays of the sun. The fuller UVB and UVA protections can help shield your skin from the sun. Some reflect the light away from your body and others absorb the sun's UV before they can reach your skin.
In the past, sunscreens were rated by their SPF level, but that only measured how well they protected skin against UVB rays. New scientific research showing that the sun's UVA rays could contribute to an increased risk of skin cancer. Sunscreens have started to protect against them too.
While UVA rays do not cause sunburns, they can penetrate the skin and cause wrinkles. Broad-spectrum or multi-spectrum sunscreens are the ones to seek out when looking for fuller protection from both UVA and UVB rays.
According to WebMD, broad-spectrum sunscreens may include the following Ingredients: avobenzone (Parsol 1789), benzophenones (oxybenzone), cinnamates (cinoxate and octylmethyl cinnamate), ecamsule (Mexoryl SX), salicylates, sulisobenzone, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide.
Ecamsule is a newly approved ingredient which can block UVA rays, but it is costly.
Another ingredient that can be expensive is avobenzone. It will block UVA rays but may be offering more hype to get you to buy a $30 bottle.
Sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium oxide are the most cost-effective way of getting broad spectrum sunscreen.
Children, and those with sensitive skin, allergies, or rosacea, should avoid benzophenones and para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA).
Zinc oxide and titanium oxide are two ingredients often seen in children's or sensitive-skin sunscreens to protect against UVA rays because they tend to irritate their skin less. And unlike older versions of sunscreens with these ingredients, they won't make your skin look pale or chalky.
Children, like adults, should use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, in addition to having these UVA-blocking ingredients.
The SPF rating tells you how good the sunscreen is at blocking out UVB rays, but there is no such rating for UVA rays. It is the ingredients that will tell you if you are fully protected or not.
Just as the ingredients in sunscreen are important, so is using it correctly. Reapply often and liberally, especially if you are sweating or coming in contact with water.
No matter how good a sunscreen is, it can't work if it's not on your skin!
"What's the best sunscreen?" WebMD.com. Web. 1 July 2015.
"The best sunscreen." Mayoclinic.com. Web. 1 July 2025.
Reviewed July 2, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith