Practice Safe Sunscreen: Using SPF Protection to Avoid Getting Burned


This summer marks the first time in more than 30 years that the FDA has updated its regulations for sunscreen use and labeling. Over that time, non-melanoma skin cancer has become the most common form of cancer in the United States—with roughly 3.5 million cases diagnosed annually—and the amount of misinformation disseminated on the Internet and even the labels of popular sunscreens is scary. We brought in David Kriegel, M.D., a skin care specialist and director of the Manhattan Center for Dermatology, to explain the changes and provide some helpful advice of his own.

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“Waterproof” is a Lie

Sunscreens can no longer claim to be waterproof. they can, however, be labeled water resistant, but how many minutes of water exposure they can endure needs to be specified. the fDa has also instated a standardized method to test this—something it didn’t have before. “now water resistant really means water resistant,” Kriegel says. just make sure to reapply when you get out of the water.

Absorption Takes Time

“Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before you go outside,” Kriegel says. “Otherwise you’ll be without protection for 10 to 15 minutes.” then reapply every two hours. “the amount it would take to fill two shot glasses will cover your entire body safely.

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Man rubbing sunblock on woman

Cover All Your Bases

The SPF number refers to UVB rays, which cause sunburn. wrinkles and age spots, however, are caused by UVA rays and require additional protection. and both cause skin cancer. look for “broad spectrum” sunscreen, which protects you from both.

Stay in The Middle

Sunscreens that offer SPF 15 or less can no longer claim to prevent skin cancer or premature skin aging. “try to get an SPF of 30,” Kriegel says. “But if it has only SPF 15 and it’s broad spectrum, that’s fine.” Go above SPF 30 and there’s hardly any difference, except maybe in price. according to the skin cancer foundation, SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays, while SPF 50 adds a mere 1%.

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No Surprises

All sunscreen labels are now required to include a “Drug facts” box listing important information like warnings and ingredients. Some concerns have arisen over the potential absorption of micronized ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. However, a study review from Australia’s Department of health and ageing has determined that these particles don’t penetrate the skin.

Bail on the Booth

The new laws don’t specifically address indoor tanning, but it’s worth mentioning since more than a million Americans hit the tanning salon each day, despite the fact that it increases their risk of developing melanoma by 75%. “the radiation in those booths is carcinogenic,” Kriegel says. “Sometimes it’s even stronger than the sun because of how focused and concentrated it is.

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