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What are the most important things to look for when purchasing sunscreen?

Amy K. Kim, MD
Dermatology
People need to look for the label to say broad spectrum, which means that the sunscreen will protect against UVA rays. The second thing to look at is the SPF, sun protection factor, which will protect you against the UVB rays.
To find a good sunscreen, it's important to note that ingredients matter.

Avoid the sunscreen chemical oxybenzone, a synthetic estrogen that penetrates the skin and can disrupt the hormone system. Look for active ingredients zinc oxide, avobenzone and Mexoryl SX. They protect skin from harmful UVA radiation.

Some sunscreens prevent sunburn but not other types of skin damage. Make sure yours offers broad spectrum protection.

Don’t fall for high SPF labels. Anything higher than SPF 50+ can tempt you to stay in the sun too long. Even if you don’t burn, your skin may be damaged. Stick to SPFs between 15 and 50+. Pick a product based on your own skin coloration, time outside, shade and cloud cover. Reapply often.

Don't be fooled by labels that boast high SPFs. Anything higher than "SPF 50+" can tempt you to stay in the sun too long, suppressing sunburn but not other kinds of skin damage. The FDA says these numbers are misleading. Stick to SPF 15-50+, reapply often and pick a product based on your own skin, time planned outside, shade and cloud cover. 

Ingredients do matter. Avoid the sunscreen chemical oxybenzone, a synthetic estrogen that penetrates the skin and contaminates the body. Look for active ingredients zinc, titanium, avobenzone or Mexoryl SX. These substances protect skin from harmful UVA radiation and remain on the skin, with little if any penetrating into the body. 

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Ideally, your sunscreen will block both UVA and UVB rays, though they are only rated for UVB protection. You should also look for sunscreen with a high SPF. The higher the SPF rating, the higher percentage of the sun's rays your sunscreen will block. For instance, SPF 45 blocks about 99 percent of UVB rays.

 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.