All About Sunscreen: SPF, Broad Spectrum Protection, and More

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The heat and light of the sun sustains life on earth as we know it. Unfortunately, it can also do some real damage to the skin, causing burns, wrinkles, brown spots, and even putting you at a higher risk for developing skin cancer! Fortunately, sunscreen offers an easy and effective way of protecting ourselves against all of this while still enjoying the great outdoors. Here are a few facts that everyone should know about sunscreen.

What is broad spectrum protection?

One of the first mistakes that many people make when choosing a sunscreen is believe that SPF rating is everything. (SPF is important, though. We will come back to that later!) The truth is that choosing a sunscreen that offers broad spectrum protection is just as important as choosing an adequate SPF rating.

The sunlight that reaches earth is made up of two distinct types of rays: UVA and UVB. Because UVA rays are more immediately harmful, they are the type of rays that all sunscreens are required to protect against. Unfortunately, UVB rays can also cause significant skin damage and place people at risk for developing skin cancers–and many sunscreens (even those with high SPF ratings) do not protect against UVB rays. Sunscreens that offer broad spectrum protection protect against both UVA and UVB rays.

A quick guide to SPF

Returning to the subject of SPF (Sun Protection Factor) ratings. SPF ratings are surrounded by quite a bit of misinformation, so we have compiled a quick list of all the basic SPF information you should know!

● The FDA recommends a minimum SPF rating of 15 in order to protect against skin cancer.
● The American Academy of Dermatology, however, recommends a minimum SPF rating of 30.
● There is little evidence to show that SPF ratings higher than 50 are any more effective. In fact, the FDA is currently evaluating evidence and considering requiring sunscreens with an SPF rating higher than 50 to simply state 50+

Sunscreen is important regardless of skin tone!

One of the biggest sunscreen myths is that people with darker skin tones do not need to apply sunscreen because their skin cannot burn. Skincancer.org, however, warns that this is simply not the case. Although the higher level of melanin found in darker skin does provide some protection against the sun, the truth is that even the darkest skin tones only offer a level of protection roughly equivalent to SPF 13. This falls short of the AAD recommendations by a wide margin. Even though darker skin may make it more difficult to see the damage that sun is doing, it does not mean that no damage is occurring!

Learn more about caring for your skin! Feel free to read more in our blog or schedule an appointment with one of our providers for more personalized recommendations!

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