The most important thing to remember about sunscreen is to apply early and reapply often, regardless of what you use. But it is important to use the right stuff.
Today’s products feel better, stay on longer, and offer better protection than sun blocks from not so many years ago. And sunscreens do age. The bottle you bought for fifty cents at a garage sale six years ago may not help you much.
SPF stands for “sun protection factor,” and allows you to compute a time limit when multiplied times the number of minutes it would normally take you to burn in the given conditions. For example, if the conditions would normally burn you in 10 minutes, an SPF 15 lotion, the recommended minimum, would grant you 150 minutes of protection.
But only if applied liberally and before exposure, as stated on the bottle. Follow the instructions, and don’t be afraid to reapply. SPF 30, incidentally, is recommended for most uses.
Don’t be fooled by marketing. “All-Day Protection” is not recognized as meaning anything. The SPF number indicates the time of protection.
“Broad Spectrum” means protection against both UVA and UVB rays, but nearly all of today’s products have that protection.
“Waterproof for Six to Eight Hours” is also not recognized by the FDA. Waterproof means 80 minutes minimum in the water without washing off. Water Resistant means 40 minutes.
Sweat proof means it won’t clog your pores or get washed off by your sweat. But it doesn’t mean that it won’t easily rub off of slippery, wet skin. Again, in all cases, reapply often to be safe.
PABA-Free is good, but is also a marketing gimmick. PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid) was used in early sun blocks, but irritated skin. It hasn’t been used for some time.
In the summer, the sun is most directly overhead, meaning it shines through less air to filter out those harmful UV (ultraviolet) rays. This is done by the ozone layer we hear so much about.
CFC’s, such as the Freon used in refrigerants and aerosol propellants, are now known to rise into the atmosphere and destroy ozone at a rate of 100,000 ozone molecules for each CFC molecule.
That is why CFC’s are now banned in aerosols, and are being phased out in refrigerants. It is not just environmental mumble jumble. The world-wide protocol on CFC's is being recognized as having a tremendous affect on the rebuilding of the health of the ozone layer.
The best sunburn protections, of course, are shade and clothing. May through August, especially from 10:00AM to 2:00PM, is the time to be most concerned about UV exposure. The risk of skin cancer is very real, and the pain of sunburn is just unnecessary.