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When choosing the best sunscreen lotion, it is important to choose a product that will protect your skin from both UVB and UVA rays. While the SPF rating on the packaging will indicate how well the product will protect you from UVB rays, you will have to look at the ingredient list to determine how well the product will protect you from UVA rays. If you plan to spend a large amount of time outdoors in hot weather or in water, it can also be helpful to look for products that are water-resistant. If you have sensitive skin, a sunscreen lotion that does not contain harsh chemicals or added fragrance may also be beneficial.
SPF ratings indicate how well a product protects you from UVB rays, the primary cause of skin cancer. When choosing a product, look for a rating of at least SPF 30, which means that the product will protect your skin from damage for 30 times longer than it would take your skin to burn without the product. For example, if you burn within 20 minutes of being outdoors, an SPF 30 product will protect you for up to 10 hours, provided that you apply it correctly and that the product does not rub off. While there are products on the market with much higher SPF ratings, these typically wear off before the allotted time, and still require reapplication for most people. If you have very fair skin, a higher rating may be best.
You also need to protect your skin from UVA rays, which the SPF rating on most sunscreen lotion does not include. To determine if the product is right for you, look at the list of active ingredients to determine how well the product will protect your skin from UVA rays. A sunscreen lotion with ecamsule is typically best, although it can be pricey. A good alternative is usually a sunscreen lotion that contains titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.
If you spend a minimal amount of time outdoors, you can typically choose a sunscreen lotion that is not water-resistant. These tend to blend into your skin more easily and often do not feel overly heavy or sticky. If you do spend a large amount of time outdoors, even if you are not participating in any water activities, a water-resistant formula is typically best. Even the smallest amount of sweating can cause regular sunscreen lotion to run off of your skin, drastically limiting its protective properties. When using water-resistant formulas, it is important to reapply the product according to package directions, as excessive sweating or long lengths of time in the water can still cause these product to wash off.
The best sunscreen for those with sensitive skin is usually products marketed for children or babies. Sunscreen lotion with ingredients like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide are typically best and often safe to use for those with delicate skin. In general, it is best to avoid products with added fragrance or ingredients, such as para-aminobenzoic acid and oxybenzone, as these can irritate the skin.
@Wisedly33: I'm with you. The higher the SPF, the better. In fact, I've made it a point to stay out of the sun my whole life, and my skin shows it.
I have cousins who are just a couple of years older than I am who were real sun worshipers in high school and college, and they're paying for it now. I look at least 10 years younger, and that's not vanity. Not many people guess my age within 10 years of the actual number. I have had a couple of painful sunburns and that taught me my lesson about always wearing sunscreen.
Also, I usually wear a hat or cap when I'm in the sun. A scalp sunburn is no fun, whatsoever.
I have very fair skin, so I always use at least an SPF 30 lotion, usually higher. I like the No-Ad sunscreen. It comes in SPF 50, is in a huge bottle and is cheaper because, as the name says, they don't do much advertising.
I choose a separate lotion for my face -- one that is made for faces, but also at least SPF 30. I don't know of any sunscreens that aren't broad spectrum, these days. They all protect against UVA and UVB rays, as far as I know. I always check the bottle, of course, but that's been my experience.
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