Not All Sunscreens Are Created Equal

 In Blog, Summer


Not All Sunscreens Are Created Equal


Before you leave the house, take a look at the bottle of sunscreen you’ve packed: do you know how this stuff even works?

You might not care what’s in your sunscreen. But we at Family Pharmacy care about sunscreen, because it helps keep people safe from skin cancers: studies have shown that UV radiation from the sun causes cancer at the same level as plutonium and cigarettes.



The first number that everyone knows to look for is SPF. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, and it is the number which tells you how long you can stay in the sun before you skin begins to burn, compared to no sunscreen. SPF 30 is designed to let you stay burn-free in the sun 30 times longer than without sunscreen.

However, a high SPF (at least 30) does not make it safe to apply sunscreen only once during a long time outside. As soon as it goes on your skin, sunscreen begins to lose its effectiveness: it gets broken down by the sun, wind and water that contacts your skin. You should reapply sunscreen every two hours, and more often if you’re toweling off and swimming repeatedly.


UVA and UVB Rays

The waves of sunlight that reach your skin come in two different types: UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays are less energetic than UVB, but penetrate deeper into your skin. They are known to be responsible for skin aging and wrinkling, but recently scientists have been looking into the relationship between UVA rays and skin cancer.

UVB rays are responsible for sunburns, as they contact the epidermis or outermost layer of skin. Even though UVB rays only attack your surface skin, they are responsible for increased risk of skin cancer in those who stay in the sun often.

Some sunscreens only protect against one or the other kind of ray. Make sure you get a sunscreen labeled broad spectrum. Broad spectrum sunscreen shields your skin from both kinds of rays, preventing skin aging as well as dangerous burning.


Spray-on vs. Lotions

Spray-on sunscreen has become more and more popular since its invention because it is quick and easy to apply. Both types of sunscreen use the same list of ingredients, so they are equally effective. The most important thing is that you apply sunscreen when you go outside, regardless of what kind you prefer.

However, the convenience of spray-on sunscreen often means you don’t use as much of it as you should. Instead of spraying for a second or two per area, you should spray 3-4 times longer per area. This helps ensure that you’re getting all of the SPF out of the lotion that you paid for. With sunscreen, more is always better.


Family Pharmacy wants to help you stay safe this summer. Come in to find your sunscreen at your local Family Pharmacy.

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