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  • Sharon Belmo

How do you pick your sunscreen?

Updated: Aug 20, 2022

We all know sunscreens help to protect our skin from the sun but understanding the labels can be confusing!

Dr Sharon Belmo Dermatology Clinic, London, United Kingdom, How do you pick your suncreen

Here’s a breakdown of a few common terms you might come across:

  • Broad-spectrum – The sun emits ultraviolet (UV) light. UVA and UVB light can directly damage the skin resulting in sunburn, tanning, ageing and skin cancer. A broad-spectrum sunscreen offers protection against both UVA and UVB sunlight.

  • SPF - This stands for “Sun Protection Factor” and measures how long it would take the sun’s UVB light to cause sunburn when you are wearing sunscreen, compared to if you weren’t. For example, your skin would take 30 times longer to burn if wearing SPF 30 in comparison to if you were not wearing any sunscreen.

  • UVA star rating – This measures the amount of UVA protection. The higher the star rating, the better, with 5 being the highest.

  • Chemical sunscreen – These sunscreens contain active ingredients such as avobenzone, octinoxate and oxybenzone. They are chemicals that absorb UV rays before it can damage your skin. They can sometimes cause irritation or allergic reactions in certain people but they are less likely to leave a white residue on darker skin tones.

  • Mineral sunscreen – These sunscreens contain the active ingredients, zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. They absorb UV rays but also reflect some of it back. Mineral sunscreens tend to be less irritating so can be a great option if you have sensitive skin.

So there we go! - A few terms you are likely to find on your sunscreen label. Hopefully choosing your sunscreen will now be a little less confusing!

Remember, sunscreens should be worn every day, even if cloudy. They should also be re-applied every 2 hours and more frequently if you are spending time in water. Yes – even if the label says water resistant!

Dr Sharon Belmo X
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