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Answers to the Most Common Questions About Sunscreen

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When it comes to any skincare regimen, the daily use of sunscreen is one of the most important steps. That’s because proper sun protection can make a huge difference in the long-term health and appearance of your skin. Ultraviolet light is the primary cause of a lot of skin concerns we usually see here at Reflections Center, so a preventive approach is our most recommended skincare tip. If you’re curious about the benefits of sunscreen or why it matters in your skincare regimen, we’ve compiled this guide with answers to the most common questions about sunscreen. Here’s what to know about it and how it should fit into your personalized regimen.

What is SPF?

SPF, or sun protection factor, represents the ability of a sunscreen to block UV rays. In fact, it works in multiples – that refers to the number you see when you look at sunscreen products. So, wearing SPF 15 means it would take 15 times longer to experience sunburn versus wearing no sunscreen at all. Similarly, SPF 30 means it takes 30 times longer.

SPF typically refers to UVB rays, the type of ultraviolet rays that cause skin damage we typically associate with sunburn. UVA rays, on the other hand, are what typically cause things like aging or tanning. They can break down collagen over time and contribute to the formation of wrinkles. SPF can come in the form of “broad-spectrum,” meaning it protects from both UVA and UVB rays. These are the best types of sunscreens to look for.

Does it matter how sunscreen is applied?

Yes – in fact, how you apply sunscreen is one of the most important factors in how much protection it offers. A useful rule is that it should be applied at least 15 minutes before going outside and then reapplied every two hours – or after you go in the water or sweat. Some studies have shown that SPF generally doesn’t offer the full amount of protection promised by the number, so it’s always best to apply more than you think you need – and more often.

When do I need to use sunscreen?

Sunscreen should be applied daily throughout the year, not just before going to the beach. The sun’s rays are present even in seasons like winter or on rainy days, meaning applying it every day is a great habit to establish. Don’t be fooled by thinking UV rays can’t penetrate things like glass either – if you spend time near windows or drive often, sunscreen is still a great investment in your skin and overall health.

Does sunscreen expire?

Yes! Most sunscreens actually have expiration dates printed on the label. If you’re ever in doubt about whether sunscreen is expired or not, you should dispose of any sunscreen that is over three years old. If your sunscreen has expired, it doesn’t offer protection anymore and can put your skin at risk.

Can you be allergic to sunscreen?

It’s rare to have a systemic reaction to sunscreen – however, local reactions in the skin such as contact dermatitis, irritation, allergic dermatitis, and phototoxic reactions can happen. These may even occur with or without sun exposure. The most common sunscreen ingredients that cause adverse reactions are PABA, benzophenones, cinnamates, and methoxydibenzoylmethane. Physical sunscreens containing titanium dioxide and zinc oxide have never been implicated in causing allergic reactions and therefore can be a better option if you’ve had an allergic reaction to other sunscreens. It’s always best to consult a cosmetic physician to determine which sunscreens won’t irritate your skin or cause a reaction.

What’s the difference between chemical and physical sunscreen?

Chemical sunscreen and physical sunscreen are two terms you’ll likely come across when shopping for products. One option may be better for you than the other, meaning it’s important to understand the benefits of each. Chemical sunscreen is typically more cosmetically elegant and doesn’t leave a white cast on the skin. It’s a more advanced way of protecting against UV rays since it doesn’t block rays, but rather absorbs them. On the other hand, physical sunscreen contains ingredients that actively block rays while it sits on the surface of the skin. Physical sunscreens may be better for certain skin types while chemical sunscreens may be better if you don’t like feeling greasy. It can be helpful to explore both types until you find one you like.

Is sunscreen truly water-resistant?

Sunscreen is considered “water resistant” if the SPF is effective after 40 minutes of water immersion. Some sunscreens are labeled as “waterproof” but it’s a misleading term. Even with water-resistant sunscreen, it needs to be reapplied regularly to continue offering protection.

Picking the Right Sunscreen for Your Needs at Reflections Center

At Reflections Center, our award-winning team of cosmetic physicians can help recommend the best sunscreen to compliment the treatments provided by our two award-winning locations. We offer some of the best from our physician-grade skincare brands like SkinMedica, EltaMD, and more. To learn more, contact our offices and schedule a complimentary consultation by calling or filling out our online form.