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Sun Protection: Selecting the Best Sunscreen for Your Family

May 30, 2017 at midnight

Consider the stats: One out of every five Americans will wind up with skin cancer in their lifetime. Although melanoma accounts for a mere 1 percent of skin cancers, approximately 9,730 people will die from it in 2017. As this number continues to rise every year, the importance of wearing sunscreen becomes more and more evident.

Choosing the best sunscreen for your family, however, can be a trying experiment. Here's an explanatory look at the different types of sunscreen available, so it'll be a little easier to select the right one for your needs.

Deciding on an SPF

Sun protection factor (SPF) refers to the amount of protection from harmful ultraviolet radiation a sunscreen offers. Although most sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher are sufficient, people often want something stronger if they will be in the sun for prolonged periods of time. An SPF of 15 filters out approximately 93 percent of UV radiation. By comparison, an SPF of 30 filters out up to 97 percent of UV radiation and an SPF of 50 filters out roughly 98 percent of UV rays.

Children's Skin

Children's skin can be especially susceptible to irritation from chemicals. The ingredients, oxybenzone and PABA (a form of aminobenzoic acid that is part of the vitamin B complex), have proven the most likely to cause a reaction. Sunscreens with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide tend to be the least likely to cause irritation.

Aerosol vs. Lotion

Consider the advantages and disadvantages of different application methods, such as:

Spray: Parents often prefer spray applications because they are easy to apply on a moving child. However, care must be taken not to breathe in the fumes or spray it on a person's face. Instead, apply the sunscreen to your hand and then spread on the face. It's hard to determine how much sunscreen is being used, so make sure to provide generous coverage over the entire body.

Stick: Stick sunscreens are useful for protecting the area around the eyes.

Gel: Gels are ideal for areas with a lot of hair, such as the scalp or a hairy chest.

Lotion: Often preferred on large areas, lotions are less greasy than creams.

Cream: Creams are best for dry skin, particularly on the face.

Insect Repellant

Sunscreens with insect repellant not only blocks UV rays but also reduce the likelihood of bug bites. They should not be applied more than once every six hours. When using the multipurpose sunscreen, apply a sunscreen without insect repellant every two hours, or after heavy sweating or water exposure.

In addition to providing protection against sunburn and insects, sunscreens can moisturize skin and reduce the impact of aging, so make sure to choose one that's best suited to your needs.


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