Is sunscreen enough protection against the sun?

Monthly safety tip from your Black Hawk College Safety Committee

Is sunscreen enough protection against the sun? Get the facts about sunscreen:

  • Sunscreen is a product that you put on your skin to protect it from the sun’s UV rays. But it’s important to know that sunscreen is just a filter – it does not block all UV rays. Sunscreen should not be used as a way to prolong your time in the sun. Even with proper sunscreen use, some UV rays get through, which is why using other forms of sun protection is also important.
  • Sunscreens are available in many forms – lotions, creams, ointments, gels, sprays, wipes and lip balms – to name a few.
  • Some cosmetics – such as moisturizers, lipsticks  and foundations – are considered sunscreen products if they have sunscreen. Some makeup contains sunscreen, but you have to check the label. Makeup, including lipstick, without sunscreen does not provide sun protection.
  • When choosing a sunscreen product, be sure to read the label. Sunscreens with broad spectrum protection (against both UVA and UVB rays) and with sun protection factor (SPF) values of 30 or higher are recommended.
  • The SPF number is the level of protection the sunscreen provides against UVB rays, which are the main cause of sunburn. A higher SPF number means more UVB protection (although it says nothing about UVA protection). For example, when applying an SPF 30 sunscreen correctly, you get the equivalent of one minute of UVB rays for each 30 minutes you spend in the sun. So, one hour in the sun wearing SPF 30 sunscreen is the same as spending two minutes totally unprotected. People often do not apply enough sunscreen, so they get less actual protection.
  • Sunscreen products can only be labeled “broad spectrum” if they have been tested and shown to protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Some of the chemicals in sunscreens that help protect against UVA rays include avobenzone (Parsol 1789), ecamsule, zinc oxide, and titanium dioxide.
  • Only broad spectrum sunscreen products with an SPF 15 or higher can state that they help protect against skin cancer and early skin aging if used as directed with other sun protection measures.
  • Sunscreens are no longer allowed to be labeled as “waterproof” or “sweatproof” because these terms can be misleading. Sunscreens can claim to be “water-resistant,” but they have to state whether they protect the skin for 40 or 80 minutes of swimming or sweating, based on testing.
  • Check the expiration date on the sunscreen to be sure it’s still effective. Most sunscreen products are good for at least two to three years, but you may need to shake the bottle to remix the sunscreen ingredients. Sunscreens that have been exposed to heat for long periods, such as if they were kept in a glove box or car trunk through the summer, may be less effective.

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Disclaimer: These tips have been provided as general information for increasing safety awareness and for informational purposes only. Black Hawk College does not accept any liability for the information or advice (or the use of such information or advice) that is provided. We make every effort to insure the integrity and validity of the data provided.  Always, check with your care provider before making any changes.