Understanding Sunscreen Ratings

Although sunscreen ratings may seem confusing and unnecessary, they are provided to help consumers understand what type of protection the sunscreen offers.

Sunscreen SPF

There has been some debate in recent years about whether or not these ratings give the consumers the proper amounts of information. The FDA's main goal is to ensure that sunscreen ratings allow the consumer to feel educated enough to make a decision concerning the type of sunscreen they should buy.

How Important Are Sunscreen Ratings?

  • Several years ago, the FDA suggested giving sunscreen a star rating, as well as an SPF number. The star would be provided to show how much UVA protection was offered. For example, if a sunscreen has a rating of one star, which means the sunscreen offers a low level of UVA protection.
  • On the other hand, if a sunscreen has five stars, that means it is proven to offer the highest possible level of UVA protection. The SPF tells us how much UVB protection a sunscreen offers. The FDA decided that since consumers were so accustomed to identifying the SPF, it was best to leave that rating system as is.
  • It is a common misconception that by combining two sunscreens, you get extra protection. Your sunscreen is only as protective as the highest number you apply. For example, if you wear a sunscreen with an SPF of 20, and a sunscreen with an SPF of 30, you will not instantly have an SPF of 50. You will only be protected by the SPF of 30.
  • If you are wearing a moisturizer or foundation with sunscreen be aware that you are not adequately protecting yourself. If you think about how little foundation and moisturizer you are applying you are not applying enough product to do the job.

How Much Is Enough....

  • One of the main complaints of sunscreen ratings is that they don't really stress to the consumer how much sunscreen needs to be applied to the average adult body to offer actual protection. Because of this, many people go into the sun for long periods without enough protection.
  • The average adult should be using about an ounce of sunscreen every time they apply it. How much is one ounce? A shot glass is about an ounce. You may want to buy a "sunscreen shot glass" to measure the proper amount. The sunscreen ratings of SPF and UVA protection only apply when the user applies an ounce of sunscreen. Don't skimp on your sunscreen just because you don't want to buy more. It is best to have extra bottles readily available just in case you run out of it.

  • Aside from sunscreen ratings, people usually make their purchase choices depending on how the sunscreen feels on their skin. If you have oily skin you probably are cautious as to the amount you are using for fear of getting oilier and potentially cause acne breakouts.
  • No matter how high a sunscreen is rated, there is no guarantee that it will protect you from getting skin cancer. For this reason, you should not be irresponsible and spend too much time in the sun just because you have sunscreen on. Sunscreen only assists in blocking the sun; it is not a magical solution to cheating skin cancer.
  • No matter what a sunscreen is rated, the bottom line is, if you don't like your sunscreen, you won't use it. Find a sunscreen that you love, and will wear every day. And remember, no matter what a sunscreen label may lead you to believe, no sunscreen is truly waterproof because water, perspiration and sand can cause it to break down and lose its protective qualities.
  • This is how many people suffer from surprise sunburns. They apply a waterproof sunscreen once in the morning, and stay at the beach all day long. Within a few hours, they could end up with a sunburn problem. Waterproof sunscreen does indeed offer a bit more protection than regular sunscreen and should be applied every couple hours.
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