Not all sunscreens are equal – Here's what to look for

(Photo Credit: Pixabay)

(Photo Credit: Pixabay)

If you're regularly making your way to the sunscreen aisle of your favorite department store – Way to go! You're already on the path to maintaining healthier, younger-looking skin. 

While any sunscreen is better than no sunscreen, there are factors that put some products ahead of the rest.

Here's what to look for: 

Broad Spectrum Protection

This means the sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Ultraviolet A (UVA) rays penetrate deeper into the skin, contributing to wrinkles and aging (Think A = Aging). Ultraviolet B rays, on the other hand, are much shorter but still dangerous. Those are the rays that cause sunburns (Think B = Burn). Both rays are considered cancerous so you want a sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays – also known as a broad spectrum sunscreen.

SPF (Sun Protection Factor)

You'll usually see this in bold font on the front of every sunscreen. This number is basically saying how much your skin is protected from burning with the sunscreen versus without sunscreen. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using an SPF of at least 30 and reapplying every 2 hours or after swimming/sweating. 


Ingredient lists can be daunting. To keep things simple, remember there are two basic kinds of sunscreens: chemical and mineral. 

Chemical sunscreens are the ones with ingredients like Avobenzone, Oxybenzone, and Octisalate. Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the sun's rays and converting them to heat so your skin isn't damaged.

Mineral sunblocks are the ones that contain Zinc Oxide and/or Titanium Dioxide. Putting on a mineral sunscreen is like putting a cover on your skin – It creates a barrier that blocks the rays. These sunscreens are great for people with sensitive or breakout-prone skin.

While there are plenty of great chemical sunscreens on the market, we tend to prefer the mineral blocks. We're a big fan of EltaMD's products. You can pick up a spray or lotion at either of our clinics.