Applying sunscreen is one of the best ways to protect your skin from the harmful effects of the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation. But how much do you know about the stuff? And are you putting it on the right way so you get the full benefits of its protection? Before you slather it on, read these 5 sunscreen facts.
Sunscreen ingredients can go bad. Sunscreens definitely have an expiry date. The expiry date may be 2 or 3 years from the day you purchased it, but always check the bottle. How can you tell if the sunscreen ingredients have gone bad? Try spreading some on your skin - does it seem to thin, too thick, or too clumpy? Has it developed a gritty texture? If your sunscreen seems "off" in texture, it may be a good idea to throw out that bottle and purchase a new one.
Sunscreen ingredients work in two different ways. The ingredients in sunscreens literally shield your skin from the sun's damaging UV radiation. Some elements - known as physical ingredients - reflect the light or cause it to bounce and scatter. Other elements - chemical ingredients - absorb the light into themselves. Either way, your skin is protected. Many formulas make use of both types of ingredients, often called "broad spectrum" sunscreen, and this is the type often recommended for people to use. For those with sensitive skin, there are chemical-free formulations available that contain only physical ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
Sunscreen labels may not tell the whole story. Scanning a sunscreen label, you may see a lot of acronyms - like SPF, UVA, and UVB. Here's a breakdown for you:
Sunscreen labels always list SPF but not always how well a sunscreen will protect the skin from UVA radiation. In 2007, the US Food and Drug Administration proposed a four-star grading system to rate how well a sunscreen blocks out UVA radiation. The more stars, the more protection. Others have suggested changing SPF to SPF-UVB so consumers can make the distinction. Still others say that since high-SPF sunscreens would block most UVB and UVA radiation, it might not be necessary to label it separately.
Sunscreens can be ineffective. This is different than when a sunscreen's ingredients go bad. No, this is when you just don't use it correctly. Certain situations make sunscreen less protective:
Sunscreen comes in many varieties. You're ready to hit the pool or head out to the beach, and you figure you'll stop by the drugstore to grab some sunscreen. Smart - but browsing the sunscreen section can be surprisingly challenging! You have many choices: lotion, gel, spray, creams, sticks, and others. Which do you choose? As long as you choose a sunscreen that is water-resistant with broad-spectrum protection and an SPF of at least 15, the rest is up to personal preference. Consider a cream if you have dry skin, and opt for a stick sunscreen to apply around sensitive spots like the eyes.
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