Most Effective Sunscreens

Can you remember the last time you had a sunburn? If you can, you probably remember how painful it was. Avoid future sunburns by using the most effective sunscreen possible, one that blocks both UVA and UVB rays and has a high SPF.

Although we can’t see it, ultraviolet radiation, or UV radiation, is definitely present, extending from the sun toward Earth in three different wavelengths that we call UVA, UVB and UVC.

While UVC is mostly absorbed by the ozone layer, UVA and UVB rays enter the Earth’s atmosphere and make their way toward the surface, where they can cause or lead to skin damage, eye damage, skin cancer and a weakened immune system.

There are some differences between UVA and UVB rays:

UVA

  • More prevalent than UVB rays
  • Penetrates the skin deeper than UVB rays
  • Present during all daylight hours
  • Intensity remains fairly constant
  • Contributes to skin cancer
  • Primarily responsible for suntan
  • Used by tanning booths (at much stronger doses than the sun naturally emits)

UVB

  • Primarily responsible for sunburn
  • Contributes to skin cancer
  • Intensity varies according to season, location and time of day (in the U.S., most significantly between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. from April through October)

It’s important to protect your skin from both types of rays. Use a sunscreen lotion or spray that blocks both UVA and UVB rays, and has a high sun protection factor, or SPF.

As the Skin Cancer Foundation explains it, SPF is not so much an amount of protection as it is an index. The number indicates how much longer it will take for your skin to burn using the product versus if you didn’t use any sunscreen at all.

For example, if you’re wearing a sunscreen with an SPF of 15, that means it will take 15 times longer for UVB rays to burn your skin than if you weren’t wearing sunscreen.

  • SPF 15 – blocks 93 percent of the sun’s UVB rays
  • SPF 30 – blocks 97 percent of the sun’s UVB rays
  • SPF 50 – blocks 98 percent of the sun’s UVB rays

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends you use, at minimum, a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.

Image via Michael on Flickr

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