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Types of Sunscreen

Woman applying sunscreen

Most of us are aware of the important role that sunscreen plays in skincare. It helps to protect your skin from UV rays while moisturizing the skin lightly. This helps prevent your skin from aging as quickly by reducing the amount of damage the sun can do to your skin. Knowing this is a strong incentive for you to remember to put on your sunscreen whenever you go outside. Sunscreen is more complicated than simply grabbing one the next time you’re at the store though. There are types of sunscreen that have their own benefits. Educating people about these types of sunscreen allows people to make good choices when trying to find a sunscreen appropriate for them. We’re going to start by assuming you know you need a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 for decent protection and cover the major type divisions in sunscreen.

UVA/B Protection or Broad Spectrum
An important distinction is made on every bottle of sunscreen. It either tells you it protects against UVA or UVB rays. Sunscreen offering just one of these isn’t worth anyone’s time as it entirely ignores half of the problematic rays. Broad spectrum sunscreen, by contrast, encompasses both UVA and UVB rays to provide complete protection for its wearer. In the past, it was more common to simply see UVA or UVB protection as the FDA had yet to issue guidelines for clear labeling to ensure that people could understand the various aspects of sunscreen. This lead to misleading labels that made people believe they were getting more protection than they were. As a result, broad spectrum sunscreen is much more common now as the knowledge that it is the only way to protect skin properly becomes common cultural knowledge.

Chemical Sunscreens
Chemical sunscreens are the most common modern form of sunscreen. They utilize various chemical isolated and refined by science to provide easily spread and comfortable sun protection. “Chemical” may seem unnerving, but try to remember that literally everything you interact with every day, including water, is considered to be a chemical. The FDA also allows them to be labeled organic by comparison to their peers. The chemicals used in sunscreen are tried, tested, and safe for use for the vast majority of people. Chemical sunscreens are particularly known for not being greasy and providing reliable protection. There is a trade-off when utilizing them. Chemical sunscreens are easier to wash off and shift around during wear easier than physical sunscreens. Additionally, the chemical nature of the sunscreen means they evaporate off over the course of wearing them and provide less and less protection. Ideally, you want to find a physical sunscreen.

Physical Sunscreens
Despite their name, these sunscreens also include chemicals. Their big difference is that that utilize either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to provide a very literal shield for your skin against the sun. Physical sunscreens are actually the older form of sunscreen despite being relatively uncommon these days. Unlike chemical sunscreens, physical sunscreens tend to leave the skin feeling greasy due to the compounds the oxide or dioxide are suspended in. This focus on the minerals to provide blocking the sun leads these sunscreens to be classified as “inorganic” by the FDA. Spreading a mineral powder across your skin is actually highly effective when it comes to helping block out the sun. Physical sunscreens are therefore recommended for anyone serious about providing their skin with the highest degree of protection.

Sunscreen seems like a simple thing that doesn’t require much thought when it comes to picking one. The various kinds of sunscreen actually make investing time and effort into the selection capable of providing you with the best choice for your skin. You will get the most out of a broad-spectrum physical sunscreen that provides at least SPF 30 protection. It provides an effective shield to reduce potential photoaging and the chance of skin cancers. Try not to dismiss chemical sunscreens though. They remain useful and effective even if they aren’t quite as effective as physical sunscreens.

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