Sunscreen protection has come a long way in the last couple of decades. Are you old enough to remember when most sunscreens only protected against UVB rays — because UVB rays cause sunburn, and we mistakenly thought that was all that mattered? We know better now. Before you pick up a new bottle of sunscreen, let’s review what’s important to consider when you’re choosing the best sunscreen for your family.
As we mentioned, most sunscreens used to only protect against UVB rays. Unfortunately, now we understand that it is actually the UVA rays that penetrate deeper into the skin and cause the most damage. At first, UVA rays just cause a tan (no wonder we used to think UVA rays were okay!). However, over time, UVA damage causes wrinkles and premature aging. Most importantly, UVA rays damage the skin’s DNA cells which can lead to cancer, just like UVB rays can. This is why the number one thing you should look for when choosing a sunscreen is that it’s labeled, “broad-spectrum,” meaning that it protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
Here’s the thing about de-coding what the SPF numbers mean: the amount of protection varies for each person. The SPF number (the sun protection factor) tells you how much longer it takes your skin to begin to sunburn when you’re wearing sunscreen compared to your unprotected skin. In other words, if you would begin to burn within 10 minutes during peak sunlight, by applying 30 SPF sunscreen, it should protect your skin for about 30 extra minutes.
Of course, everyone burns at different rates. So, to choose the best SPF for your family, consider how quickly you all burn in the sun. Then, get the number that fits the person who sunburns easiest. Plus, you need the maximum SPF baby or children’s sunscreen for any kiddos in your family. Remember, though, that sunscreen shouldn’t be used on babies younger than 6 months; they should be kept out of the sun altogether. Is your backyard short on shade? Add a Frankford® Umbrella on your deck, by your patio table, or by your pool! You’ll find the best in shade protection at The Pool People.
Finally, as Dr. Steven Wang wrote for SkinCancer.org, don’t let using sunscreen with a high SPF create a false sense of security. According to Dr. Wang, “People who use them (high SPF sunscreens) tend to stay out in the sun much longer. They may skip reapplying. And they may think they don’t need to seek shade, wear a hat or cover up with clothing. They end up getting a lot more UV damage, which, of course, defeats the purpose.”
So, when seeking sun protection for your family, be sure to follow the sunscreen label, reapply frequently, and take shade breaks, if possible. If you follow these guidelines, you can safely enjoy your sunny summer!