Sunscreen 101

Don’t let the alphabet soup on sunscreen packages deter you from wearing sunscreen. Here’s a guide to some common label terms to help you choose the best product for you.

SPF Short for sun protection factor, SPF tells you how much protection a product provides against sunburn. Dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 and reapplying every two hours.
UVB rays These generally contribute to sunburn and can cause cancer.
UVA rays These can contribute to skin damage and aging and may lead to skin cancer.
Broad spectrum For optimal protection, choose broad spectrum sunscreens, which protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
Chemical blockers These are the active ingredients such as oxybenzone or octyl methoxycinnamate that work with skin’s cells to protect against skin damage. Some leave an oily sheen while others disappear into the skin quickly.
Mineral blockers Minerals such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide sit on the surface of the skin and reflect the sun’s rays. They can leave a chalky, white cast on skin.
Nanoparticles Some mineral sunscreens are formulated with extremely fine particles, which may make them appear less chalky on the skin. Others advertise they are free of nanoparticles, because of unproved health concerns. The FDA has not offered clear guidance on nanoparticles in sunscreen.