Finding the Best and Safest Sunscreen

Sunscreen is an essential as summer approaches, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all, and there are so many kinds of sunscreen out there because different people may have different sunscreen needs. Look below for the best deals on quality sunscreen.

Both UVA and UVB rays can lead to skin cancer, plus UVA rays cause wrinkles and speed up signs of aging, and UVB rays cause sunburns. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends a minimum of SPF 30, which protects against 97% of the sun’s UVB rays. Higher SPFs are better for the fair skinned or those who burn easily, but keep in mind that improvements are minimal-SPF 15 provides 93% protection, so it’s not like 30 is “twice” as effective. The AAD recommends SPF 50 for the fair skinned or those who burn easily, but don’t insist upon maxing out your SPF. Why? “No sunscreen can block 100 percent of the sun’s rays,” according to the Academy, and there’s actually no evidence that SPFs higher than 50 protect any better.

A quick look through the ingredients list can help ensure you have the quality and coverage you need. You’ll want to ensure you have both UVA and UVB protection, so look for the term “broad spectrum” in the label. Mineral (or physical) sunscreen works by using natural minerals zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to reflect the sun’s rays from your skin. On the other hand, chemical sunscreens use chemical compounds like bemotrizinol, avobenzone and biscotizole-all of which provide broad-spectrum protection.

Many sunscreens are made to specifically help those with dry, oily or sensitive skin. Board-certified dermatologist and skin-cancer surgeon Michael Shapiro has shared with us that people with dry skin should look for ingredients like glycerin, lanolin, oils, silicones (like dimethicone) and aloe, and avoid sunscreen sprays or gels with alcohol. For oily skin, lightweight or gel lotions with ingredients like silica or isododecane are best. For sensitive skin, hypoallergenic and fragrance-free are good bets, as are mineral sunscreens with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. Alcohols and preservatives should also be avoided.

People with rosacea or acne may need to take alcohol-a common sunscreen ingredient-into consideration, especially when using other skin treatments. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that people who have rosacea or are prone to allergies should avoid sunscreens with alcohol, but that “patients with acne, however, may find gel formulas, which usually contain alcohol, less likely to aggravate acne.” These can work better for acne-prone people than greasy, cream-based sunscreens. Another anti-acne tip? “The UVB filter ensulizole has a lighter, less oily consistency than most other chemical sunscreens,” according to the Foundation. Finally, though, be sure to listen to your skin. For example, if you’re using an acne medication cream or treatment, a light cream can help balance out the drying effects of the acne medication.

No sunscreen protects you from 100% of the sun’s rays, so it’s important to plan your clothing, hats and other barriers carefully. As the Skin Cancer Foundation suggests, “more is more.” More clothing coverage means more protection from the sun’s rays. The material of the clothing is important, too. Woven fabrics still contain tiny holes between the threads. The Foundation advises that “synthetic fibers such as polyester, lycra, nylon, and acrylic are more protective than bleached cottons, and shiny or lustrous semi-synthetic fabrics like rayon reflect more UV than do matte ones, such as linen.