Choosing the Best Sunscreen for Sun Safety

Choosing the Best Sunscreen for Sun Safety

Warmer spring days have finally arrived, and hot summer days will soon be here. As soon as the weather gets nice, my kids and I like to head outdoors to garden, play at the park, swim, and visit the zoo. Before heading outside for more than ten to fifteen minutes, I liberally apply broad-spectrum SPF 50 on my kids and myself. Broad-spectrum means that the sunscreen protects against both types of harmful UV rays from the sun, both UVA and UVB. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends selecting a sunscreen with an SPF rating of 30 or higher. SPF, or sun protection factor, is a measure of the fraction of sunburn-producing UV rays that reach the skin.

The Sun in Your HandsI personally choose SPF 50 sunscreen because I have ridiculously fair skin that burns in a matter of minutes if I even think about the sun. My children both also have light skin similar in fairness to mine. SPF 30 blocks 97 percent of UVB rays and SPF 45 blocks 98 percent. No sunscreen blocks 100 percent, so sunscreens with ridiculously high SPFs are just that — ridiculous. I choose SPF 50 because tear-free baby sunscreen usually comes in SPF 50. You should choose at least SPF 30 when choosing a sunscreen.

Whatever SPF you choose, dermatologists recommend using a water-resistant sunscreen applied liberally one half hour before heading outside. Water resistant sunscreen remains effective on wet or sweaty skin for a while before you need to reapply. Water resistance lasts either 40 or 80 minutes. Not all sunscreens offer water resistance. You should also reapply sunscreen at least every two hours or after swimming, drying off, or sweating. Also use caution around water, sand, and even snow because these surfaces can reflect UV rays, causing your skin to burn faster. Remember: Sunburn not only increases the risk of cancer but also causes premature aging. Even if you are not concerned about an increases cancer risk, appease your vanity and stay younger looking longer!

In addition to using a water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, also be sure to apply enough. You should use at least an ounce per sitting. When I apply sunscreen to my kids and myself, I slater it on thickly before rubbing it in. My kids and I both look like goopy white ghosts when I first apply sunscreen. I cover all three of us thickly before rubbing the sunscreen in to make sure that our skin gets a liberal coating to protect us from the harmful rays of the sun. Many people who do use sunscreen regularly do not use enough. Use at least an ounce (or more!) each and every time you apply and reapply.

Finally, using clothing, hats, sunglasses, and other cover-ups are equally important in protecting against the harmful effects of the sun. My kids and I usually avoid going outside between the hours of 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM to limit sun exposure during the peak intensity hours. If we do go outside during the sunniest parts of the day, we seek shade whenever possible. We also wear clothing with a tight-weave including swim wear that protects against UV rays, hats with wide brims, and sunglasses that offer UV protection. For more information about sun safety and sunscreen, check out the following infographics.

How to Select a Sunscreen

How to Properly Use Sunscreen

Sunscreen Facts You Should Know

Fun in the Sun

Why Sun Protection Should Be Used 365 Days a Year


High-SPF Sunscreens: Are They Better?:
How to Select a Sunscreen:
Sun and Water Safety Tips:
Sunscreen FAQs:

Image Credits

Choosing the Best Sunscreen for Sun Safety: (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) and (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
The Sun in Your Hands:
How to Select a Sunscreen:
How to Properly Use Sunscreen:
Sunscreen Facts You Should Know:
Fun in the Sun:
Why Sun Protection Should Be Used 365 Days a Year:

Written by Heather

Heather is a writer, librarian, linguist, wife, homemaker, homeschooler, and mother.

'Ursa's Light' Book Review

‘Ursa’s Light’ Book Review

Can a Princess Be a Firefighter? Book Review

‘Can a Princess Be a Firefighter?’ Book Review