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Shield Smarts: How to Choose the Right Sunscreen

Updated: Aug 4, 2023

Choosing the right sunscreen is crucial for effective protection against UV rays. Here's some advice on how to make the best choice and ensure you're using sunscreen correctly:

1. SPF (Sun Protection Factor)

Select a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30. SPF indicates the level of protection against UVB rays. An SPF 30 sunscreen filters out about 97% of UVB rays, while higher SPFs offer only marginal additional protection. It's essential to reapply sunscreen regularly regardless of the SPF level.

2. PA Rating

SPF only reflects protection against UVB. Always look for PA rating which indicates the level of protection against UVA rays. The more plus signs (+), the higher the UVA protection. Look for a PA rating of at least PA+++ to ensure adequate UVA protection.

3. "Broad-Spectrum Protection"

Many sunscreens label themselves as "broad-spectrum,". Always check for the SPF and PA ratings still ensure they actually cover both UVA and UVB protection.

4. Consider Your Skin Type

Those with sensitive skin should look for sunscreens with gentle, hypoallergenic ingredients. Physical sunscreen is generally less likely allergenic than chemical or combination sunscreen.

5. Water Resistance

If you plan to swim or sweat heavily, choose a water-resistant sunscreen. Water-resistant sunscreens adhere better to the skin and maintain their efficacy, even after exposure to water for a specified time (usually 40 or 80 minutes). However, it's still essential to reapply after swimming or sweating.

How Much and How Frequently to Reapply:

1. Apply Generously:

To achieve the protection stated on the bottle, you need to apply sunscreen generously. For the average adult, this means using about one ounce (approximately a shot glass full) to cover the entire body. Use enough to create an even layer on the skin, ensuring adequate protection.

2. Reapply Every Two Hours:

Sunscreen wears off over time, especially with exposure to water, sweat, or friction from clothing or towels. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, even on cloudy days, for continuous protection.

3. Reapply After Swimming or Sweating:

Water-resistant sunscreens offer some protection during water activities, but it's crucial to reapply immediately after toweling off or after sweating excessively.

4. Don't Forget Vulnerable Areas:

Pay special attention to often-missed areas like the ears, back of the neck, tops of the feet, and the back of the legs when applying sunscreen.


Regular and correct sunscreen use is a small investment that yields significant long-term benefits for your skin's health and appearance. By selecting the right sunscreen and paying attention to reapplication, you can shield your skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation. Sunscreen isn't just a summertime essential; it's a year-round necessity for maintaining healthy, youthful skin and minimizing the risk of skin cancer.


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