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How to Choose the Right Sunscreen

by Staff Writer
Roughly 20 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer at least once during their lives, and sunscreen can go a long way toward helping you avoid becoming one of them. In fact, daily use of a sunscreen can slash your risk of developing the deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma, in half. There are many different sun care products on the market, ensuring there is a formula perfect for your needs that will easily fit into your lifestyle. But how do you find it? You can narrow down the options and select the ideal sunscreen in no time by following these steps.

1. Choose Daily Use or Active

The first step in finding the right sunscreen is to decide whether you're looking for a daily use formula to offer basic protection when you'll be outside for short periods of time or a more powerful formula for prolonged outdoor exposure. Daily use sunscreens can include traditional lotions, but they can also take the form of makeup and moisturizers. Active or sports sunscreens are also available in many different types and designed to provide more complete protection from the sun.

2. Select Physical versus Chemical

Once you know whether to focus your search on lighter daily use or more intensive active sunscreens, you'll need to determine whether you prefer a physical or chemical sunscreen. Physical sunscreens use natural minerals to reflect the sun. They are often preferred by people with sensitive skin and those who like to use natural skin care products. Chemical products contain ingredients that absorb ultraviolet energy. A chemical sunscreen becomes fully absorbed by the skin and does not leave behind any residue the way that many physical sunscreens do. Both physical and chemical sunscreens can provide protection from UVA and UVB rays, provided you choose a formula labeled "broad spectrum."

3. Think of Special Concerns

Next, you'll need to think about any special concerns you have that might require you to purchase a specific type of sunscreen. If you'll be swimming or sweating heavily, a water-resistant product will be most ideal for your needs. In the event that you're shopping for a child, you will want to select formulas for baby and kids. Women may want to purchase a sunscreen that is tinted to double as a foundation.

4. Pick the Right Formula

After you have factored in any special needs that you may have in regards to your sunscreen product, you'll need to decide what type you prefer to apply. Lotions and creams allow you to easily monitor how much sunscreen you've applied and where you've applied it, but you may find them more time consuming and messier to use. Stick and spray sunscreens are easy to apply and quicker to use but can make it easier to accidentally miss spots.

5. Select Your SPF

The last thing that you'll need to choose is the correct level of SPF for your needs. The higher the SPF protection level is, the more UVB rays the product can filter out. For example, SPF 30 reflects or absorbs 97 percent of ultraviolet B. If you're not sure which SPF level is right for you, ask your doctor for advice.