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How Do I Choose the Right Sunscreen?

There are many different sunscreens to choose from these days and it can be some what confusing.  Here are few key things you should take into consideration when buying your next sunscreen.  Look for one that is broad-spectrum or full-spectrum, meaning that it protects against both UVB and UVA rays. UVB rays are shorter wave lengths that only penetrate the top layer of the skin, the epidermis. They can burn your skin and are responsible for what we all know as a sunburn. UVA rays penetrate deeply into the skin and manifest as increased pigmentation, ie. a tan. These longer rays are responsible for wrinkles and age spots and can destroy cells essential to healthy skin.  Too much exposure to both types of rays increase your risk of skin cancer. Therefore, a sunscreen that protects from both UVA and UVB rays is optimal.  There should be physical filters such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide which deflect sun rays as well as chemical filters that absorb harmful rays. Formulas that are oil free, paraben free, fragrance free, water resistant and have hydrating properties are safest for children (6 months and older) and best suited for adults.

Be sure to have an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of at least 15.  Many dermatologists recommend using an SPF of at least 30. This is a measurement of how well the sunscreen deflects UVB rays. There is currently no measure of UVA absorption. It is important to know that a higher SPF factor does not necessarily ensure that you can stay out in the sun longer without reapplying. It simply means you have a little more protection if you have applied an adequate amount. All sunscreens need to be reapplied every 2 hours or after swimming, sweating or towelling off. The adequate amount to apply is 1 oz. per adult and to apply 30 minutes before heading out in the sun.  A good sunscreen should also contain some antioxidants such as vitamins C & E, which neutralize free radicals and help to prevent sun damage.

Ultimately, the sunscreen you choose will depend greatly upon your lifestyle and skin type. Other factors to bear in mind to reduce your risk of too much sun exposure are to seek shade during the hottest times of the day (generally this is between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.), wear protective clothing, sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat. At North Okanagan Skin & Laser we have a great selection of sunscreens to choose from and a consultation with one of our professionals will help make your decision quick and trouble-free.

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