Understanding Sunscreen Labels

You know that you should wear sunscreen to protect your skin from the harmful effects of the sun, but do you know what to look for when purchasing a sunscreen? If you answered no to that question, you are not alone.

Findings from a study at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago suggest that majority of people are confused about how to read sunscreen labels. With the number of sunscreen products available for sale, consumers can be overwhelmed when deciding which sunscreen can provide them with the highest level of protection.

49 percent of study participants did not know the meaning of the acronym SPF, which stands for “Sun Protection Factor.”

An SPF of 30 will filter about 97 percent of UVB rays. An SPF of 50 will filter about 98 percent of UVB rays,”

said Dr. Roopal Kundu, supervisor of the study. UVB rays area the rays that cause sunburns. In theory, if your skin typically gets burned after 10 minutes of sun exposure, wearing SPF 15 would allow you to stay under the sun for 150 minutes, or 10 x 15, without getting burned. This model has a problem, however, because sunscreens are not effective for more than two hours and require reapplication.

People remain confused about the fact that a higher SPF does not mean that a sunscreen will protect your skin against the ultraviolet A (UVA) rays that cause photoaging and can also lead to skin cancer.

When looking for a sunscreen that safeguards against both kinds of damaging rays, look for a product that says “broad spectrum.” Under current U.S. Food and Drug Administration labeling regulations, sunscreens labeled “broad spectrum” are the only products that protect against UVA and UVB rays.

It is not enough to just choose a sunscreen- complete sun protection involves a number of lifestyle changes, according to Dr. Kundu. He suggests that consumers adopt these tactics:
-Reapply sunscreen after two hours, or after every dunk underwater
-Limit sun exposure, especially during midday when the rays are the strongest
-If you have to outside midday, find some shade
-Cover up with long sleeves, pants, a hat and sunglasses whenever possible

Read more here- “Understanding Your Sunscreens Better: Everything to Know about SPF,” (Rhodi Lee, Tech Times)


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Mackenzie is a Marketing Fellow and a rising junior at Villanova University. She is planning to co-major in Marketing and Finance and minor in Business Entrepreneurship. As a part of her studies, she has created and presented a comprehensive marketing plan to professionals from The Vanguard Group featuring Vanguard's exchange-traded funds.


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