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Best SPF Sunscreens: How to Protect Your Skin

Knowing Your SPF

It's hard to tell when America began worshiping the bronzed god, but Hollywood definitely played a big part. According to a study for the American Academy of Dermatology, 59% of Americans view a tan as a sign of health and longevity, when ironically, it is the exact opposite. Tanning is not always the best way to go.

Having a tan body basically means that the top layer of your skin is shriveled up, dry, and 100% dead cells! Yay. The average human has about 22 sq. feet of skin (a typical door covers about 21 sq. feet of space). So that's 22 sq. ft. of dead skin you're carrying around. Thanks, Hollywood, for the great tanning frenzy.

Now, let's not panic here. The top layer of your skin, called the epidermis, constantly regenerates itself; it's what it's designed to do, and it also explains why you lose your tan in a few weeks' time.

The point of wearing sunscreen is not to prevent you from getting a tan; it's to prevent you from harming the more delicate parts of the skin and also to prevent you from damaging 22 sq. feet of skin in a few hours.

Apply sunscreen if you're going to be out in the sun for more than one hour.

Apply sunscreen if you're going to be out in the sun for more than one hour.

Difference Between Sunscreen and Sunblock

Sunscreen is chemically based and still allows some UV light to penetrate through (though much less than without sunscreen at all). The SPF content in sunscreen doesn't matter when it comes to UV light penetration. The only thing SPF tells you is how many minutes you can be in the sun before you have to reapply sunscreen. Sunblock on the other hand is a very opaque and thicker paste that is usually made of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Sunblock tends to leave a more chalky film on your skin than sunscreen does, which is why sunscreen is often preferred over sunblock. Sunscreen is more convenient while still delivering adequate protection.

The Ideal SPF to Choose

An SPF of at least 15 is recommended when doing regular daytime activities. For going to the beach settle for nothing less than SPF 30, especially when the sun is directly overhead of you. This is when you are most exposed to direct UV/UVB rays and when the sun is at it's most powerful.

The difference between UVB and UVA rays

The difference between UVB and UVA rays

Spf Is Not the Only Thing to Be Concerned About

SPF only protects you from UV-B radiation. Scientists have identified another form of UV radiation called UV-A radiation. The difference between UVA and UVB is that UVA can penetrate into the deeper layers of your skin. Make sure your bottle of sunscreen contains the words: UVA/UVB protection, or else you won't really be getting good sun protection.

Swimming Without Sunscreen Is Not Safe

When you are swimming, you are actually more at risk of sunburn than when you are not. Sunscreen is important to wear when you swim because water magnifies the power of UV rays. Yes, although water does have an amazing ability to stop UV rays from penetrating it (this is how early organisms survived in the ocean), this ability only kicks in at about 15-20 ft. under the water. So unless you plan to go deep sea diving, don't skip the sunscreen if you are going into your 5 ft. pool or if you are a few feet off the shore of a beach.

Apply the sunscreen before you go into the water and rub it into your skin well. It's best to go with a waterproof formula (annoying as they may be) because it won't wash off as fast. You still need to reapply when you get out of the water. You should always reapply every 2-3 hours no matter what you have been doing (even if it's just sitting)!

NO-AD Sunscreen

NO-AD Sunscreen

Best Sunsceen

NO-AD Sunscreen

This sunscreen offers UVA/UVB protection. It also offers a wide range of SPF options, from 15 to 80. In addition, it has no unpleasant smell. It's a virtually non-greasy formula (as non-greasy as sunscreen can get anyway). The price range is also very good since you get a lot of the sunscreen for a good price ranging from $6.00 to $8.00. In addition it is also water resistant. Really, there is no other sunscreen that compares price wise. It offers all the main ingredients that you need for the best protection such as:

  • Homosalate 15%
  • Octisalate 5%
  • Oxybenzone 5%
  • Avobenzone 2% (very important in UVA protection!)
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If you prefer a spray sunscreen (these are not as effective as lotion sunscreens) then consider the sunscreen below.

Coppertone SPORT Spray Sunscreen

Coppertone SPORT Spray Sunscreen

Best Spray Sunscreen

Coppertone SPORT Continuous Spray Sunscreen

With a spray sunscreen it is best to purchase a higher SPF such as SPF 50 or SPF 45 because they tend to not offer as good of protection as a cream sunscreen. Coppertone SPORT Continuous Spray Sunscreen boasts the following benefits:

  • High-performance, durable sunscreen
  • Ultra Sweatproof, won't run into eyes and sting
  • Photostable, broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection
  • Waterproof
  • Antioxidant defense for extreme conditions
  • Available in 6 fl. oz.

To Sum Up

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Micky Dee on August 05, 2011:

Very nicely done. Thank you ma'am.

Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on June 02, 2011:

Very useful and well laid out. It is too late for my wrinkled skin but take care in the sun folks :)

Deya Writes (author) on May 29, 2011:

Thanks Pamela99, after getting informed, I'm a sunscreen junkie too...and also because it's practical. I mean, who WANTS a nasty sunburn anyway?

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on May 26, 2011:

This is an excellent article and so important in preventing skin cancer. I never go out of the house without protection. Thanks for the specific information.

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