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How to Choose the Right Sunscreen

How to Choose the Right Sunscreen

May. 28th, 2021

Summer has arrived and many pools are ready for guests. You might be excited to cool off at the pool or beach on those hot summer days.

When spending time outdoors, especially during the summer season, sunscreen is essential to keeping your skin safe from the sun’s harmful UV rays.

With many different brands and types of sunscreen on the market, choosing the right sunscreen can be difficult. The marketing and design on different sunscreen packaging can oftentimes be misleading and a little confusing.

In honor of National Sunscreen Day and Skin Cancer Awareness Month, we’re sharing tips about sunscreen, why it’s necessary, and how to choose the right one for you and your loved ones.

Why is Sunscreen Important?

Sunscreen is proven to decrease your risk of skin cancer and pre-cancer.1 Sunscreen can also prevent aging that is caused by the sun, such as wrinkles and age spots.

Sunscreen is essential to protect your skin, whether or not you burn or tan easily. With the sun’s visible and invisible rays, our skin is prone to sun damage almost every single day.

How Does Sunscreen Work?

UVA and UVB Rays

The first part of understanding how sunscreen works is learning about UVA and UVB rays.

The sun emits radiation that is strong enough to damage our skin, even on cloudy days.2

Ultraviolent B rays (UVB) affect the surface of our skin, known as the epidermis, which causes sunburn.3 This damage is physically seen on the body, and severe sunburn can cause skin abnormalities.

Ultraviolent A rays (UVA) penetrate our skin to the deepest and thickest layer, known as the dermis, and harm supportive substances that keeps our skin young and healthy.3

Although UVB rays harm your skin the most during the sun’s peak hours of the day, UVA rays are always able to cause skin damage. In fact, UVA rays are the main factor contributing to skin cancer.

Physical vs. Chemical Sunscreen

When it comes to choosing a sunscreen and how much it protects us from UV rays, there are two types: physical and chemical. Regular and thorough use of sunscreen, no matter which type, can help protect your skin from both short and long term damage.

Physical Sunscreen

Physical sunscreen essentially works as a blocker from sun rays. This type of sunscreen blocks and scatters UV rays before they penetrate the skin.1

Physical sunscreen, also known as mineral sunscreen, is defined by its active ingredients: titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.

This type of sunscreen is also considered the most gentle option for those with sensitive skin.

Chemical Sunscreen

Chemical sunscreen, also known as synthetic sunscreen, is known for the two active ingredients, avobenzone and octisalate.

Contrary to how physical sunscreens sit on the skin’s surface and block rays, chemical sunscreens absorb rays like a sponge.4

Chemical sunscreen works as a chemical reaction and converts UV rays into heat.4 This type of sunscreen absorbs UV rays before they can damage your skin.1

Choosing the Right Sunscreen

There are many options available when it comes to choosing a type and brand of sunscreen.


Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is how people most commonly choose a sunscreen. The SPF rating is how much protection a sunscreen provides against UVB rays.2

Contrary to what most people believe, an increase in SPF does not significantly decrease your risk of sunburn. A sunscreen with a SPF 30 will protect you from about 97% of UVB rays, while a sunscreen with a SPF 50 will protect your skin from about 98%.2 

A safe rule for choosing SPF would be the following: multiply how many minutes into unprotected sun exposure that you start to burn by the SPF rating.2 This equation will determine how many minutes that SPF rating will protect you from sunburn.

For example, if your arms start to get pink after ten minutes in the sun without sunscreen, and you apply  sunscreen with a SPF 30, you will have five hours of protection before needing to reapply. 

More factors to consider

Today, more sunscreens are coming out on the market that are safer for skin and made with clean ingredients. For example, there are brands that make vegan and gluten-free sunscreen. There are also sunscreens that are sulfate-free and paraben-free. These are options to keep in mind when choosing a sunscreen.

There are even sunscreens suited for the delicate skin on our faces. The skin on our face is more sensitive and shows some of the first signs of aging, so it is important to protect our face from UV rays.

Many people are not aware of these differences when choosing a sunscreen. All of these ingredients, including active ingredients in physical and chemical sunscreen as mentioned above, can affect your skin differently.

Here are some sunscreen options that are clean and safe for your skin:

  • Sun Bum – These sun-protection products are made sulfate free, paraben free, gluten free, vegan, and cruelty free. If you’re looking for a clean sunscreen option without harmful substances, this is a great choice.
  • Supergoop! – This brand creates many different products with SPF that are reef-safe as well as cruelty free. Supergoop! products are free of ingredients such as synthetic fragrances, heavy metals, and more. They also sell other products with SPF, such as makeup. If you’re looking for clean ingredients and an environmentally-friendly brand, this one is for you.
  • Elta MD – This brand is commonly recommended by dermatologists. Elta MD makes a variety of sunscreens suitable for different skin types, including those who have acne and rosacea. Elta MD also partners with organizations such as the Skin Cancer Foundation and the Melanoma Foundation.

These brands only scratch the surface when it comes to the wide variety of sunscreens that are available.

When it comes to choosing a sunscreen that is best for your skin type, there are many factors to consider. Do you have allergies? Is your skin sensitive? Do you use topical treatments or take medicine for skin concerns?

If you’ve tried many different brands and types of sunscreen, or you’re having trouble finding one suitable for your skin, try talking to your doctor or seeing a dermatologist. A dermatologist can evaluate your skin and help you choose a sunscreen with ingredients that will not irritate or harm your skin.

Saber Healthcare Encourages You to Wear Sunscreen Today

Saber Healthcare encourages you to wear sunscreen to keep your skin youthful and healthy. Talk with your doctor, pick out a sunscreen that works for you, and protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays.

Saber Healthcare is an organization dedicated to providing consultant services to long term care providers. This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to be seen as professional advice. Please consult with a medical expert before relying on the information provided.


  1. Richard, Elisabeth. “All About Sunscreen.” The Skin Cancer Foundation, January 2021. Accessed May 25th, 2021.
  2. “How Sun Protection Factor (SPF) Works.” Paula’s Choice, Accessed May 25th, 2021.
  3. Richey, Jason. “How does sunscreen work to protect your skin?” Colorscience, Inc., March 16th, 2018. Accessed May 25th, 2021.,against%20one%20or%20the%20other.
  4. Hopp, Devon and Rostamian, Michelle. “Natural Isn’t Always Better: What You Don’t Know About Sunscreen.” Dotdash, Byrdie. March 22nd, 2021. Accessed May 27th, 2021.