• Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States.
  • More than 3.5 million skin cancers in over two million people are diagnosed annually.
  • Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon.
  • Over the past three decades, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined.
  • Of the seven most common cancers in the US, melanoma is the only one whose incidence is increasing.

Now that you have five reasons to wear your sunscreen, let’s learn a little more about what to look for in a sunscreen. 

SPF Numbers
Although the SPF (sunburn protection factor) on a bottle of sunscreen is commonly referred to when shopping for sun protection, few people actually know what the number system means. The SPF of a sunscreen tells you two things: how long you can stay in the sun and how well the formula filters the sun’s rays. First, if you take the amount of minutes you can stay in the sun before turning pink and then multiply that number by the SPF rating, you get the amount of time you can spend in the sun using that sunscreen. For example, if you are normally able to stay in the sun for 10 minutes without burning and the SPF of your sunscreen formula is 20, your sunscreen will protect you for 200 minutes (if applied correctly) before your skin starts to burn. The second thing – how well the formula filters the suns rays – is described below.

  • SPF 2 blocks about 50% of UVB rays.
  • SPF 10 blocks about 85% of UVB rays.
  • SPF 15 blocks about 95% of UVB rays.
  • SPF 30 blocks about 97% of UVB rays.

Above SPF 30, the increased percentage protection is minimal. Instead, there is a longer period of time before sunburn takes place. However, experts do recommend you re-apply at least every two hours regardless of the SPF. The FDA has proposed that SPF will be capped at 50+ unless the manufacturer can provide information that supports a higher SPF. SPF numbers higher than 50 have been shown to offer minimal additional protection compared to sunscreens with a SPF of 50 and under.

A sunscreen must meet broad-spectrum testing, which measures the UVA protection in relation to the UVB protection in a product. Sunscreens that pass the broad-spectrum test may be labeled “broad-spectrum,” indicating that they protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Only sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher can claim to reduce the risk of skin cancer or premature aging of the skin. Zinc oxide is the best ingredient in sunscreen. This ingredient is a physical blocker that blocks both UVA and UVB rays extensively.  Always look at the active ingredient list on your bottle of sunscreen and make sure they have at least one of the following ingredients: Zinc oxide, Titanium dioxide, Oxybenzone or Sulisobenzone. These 4 products have both UVA and UVB protection.

Sunscreen and Water
The term “waterproof” will be a thing of the past. New terms to be used are “water-resistant” and “very water-resistant,” determined after specific testing. “Waterproof,” “sweatproof” and “sunblock” are history.

From thick, red cream to transparent, all-natural mineral protection, sunscreen has been through a remarkable transformation in the past century. Better UV protection and healthier ingredients make the sunscreens of today not only more effective, but safer to use.   As the summer continues, remember to choose a SPF of 30 or higher (as recommended by the American Cancer Society) and to reapply every two hours. Happy summer!

By: Lindsey Paulsen
References: SkinInc