The Truth About Your Sunscreen

 Post by Lauren Gralton

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When it comes to pricey purchases, like a TV or refrigerator, I always do my research prior to buying anything, but with sunscreen I’ll admit to letting my wallet decide. Little did I know, that many claims of protection displayed on the bottle were as baseless as the substance inside. 

Upon reading the almighty Consumer Reports’ sunscreen stats, I was relieved to find out that “the least effective sunscreens were among the priciest.” It turns out that the top three, actually include two generic brands. Said rankings placed Equate from Walmart in first, then Up & Up from Target, and Coppertone took the bronze (no pun intended).

 Can’t find any of the above options? Here’s a couple tips on how to choose your shield from the hot, glowing star-

– Always purchase sunscreen with a broad-spectrum label. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends this because, “SPF ratings found on sunscreen packages apply mainly to UVB rays [so] many sunscreen manufacturers include ingredients that protect the skin from some UVA rays as well.”

-When it comes to SPF, any number lower than 30 is providing less than 96% protection. Please note, the Environmental Working Group states that “higher SPF products require a greater concentration of chemicals but fail to reduce skin damage.” In my opinion, it is better to use SPF 30 or SPF 40 and be more conscious of application.

So, how often do you really need to apply? 

The EPA advises to apply sunscreen 20 minutes before going out into the sun that way it has time to absorb into your skin.

Amid my researching, I found that many websites give a formula to figure out how long the SPF will last on your individual skin type. They said to take the number of minutes it would take for your skin to burn without any protection, then multiply that number by the SPF number. This means that if my pasty coloring starts to fry after 10 minutes, then a SPF of 30 would keep me safe for 5 hours. A recent experience in Orlando gives me more than permission to say, “I beg to differ.” Granted swimming, inevitable perspiration, and any contact with clothing will cause the sunscreen to rub off sooner. I’ll side with the experts that encourage application every 1-2 hours, depending on your natural skin coloring.

 Protect and Educate your Children 

If you are a parent or in charge of any little ones, make sure to slather that sunscreen on. According to SunWise, a program created by the EPA to educate kids about sun safety, between the ages of 0-18 is when sunscreen is the most vital. Skin damage and sunburns earlier in life can have dangerous long-term effects. They note that it is important to educate children at a young age about taking care of their skin. What better way to do this than by playing a game. Test your sun safety knowledge here.

This post wouldn’t be complete without a few random facts that I learned: 

  • Hippos naturally secrete an oily, pink sunscreen (tweet this!)
  • The black rings around a meerkat’s eyes act like built-in sunglasses!
  • UV rays are the strongest between 10am and 4pm

So, whether you plan to be outside for 30 minutes or 3 hours, make sure to cover yourself and your loved ones in sunscreen first. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30 and apply liberally. Now go soak up some rays!

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