UVA … UVB … SPF … it’s all acronym-mumbo-jumbo. But for what? Do you know what it means? Better Â yet, do you know how well it’s protecting you?
Well, thanks to the FDA’s Division of Nonprescription Regulation Development, sunscreen will soon be easier to decipher. Here’s what you need to know about what’s on the label.
Broad Spectrum: This means the sunscreen must protect against both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays cause wrinkles, signs of aging, and can lead to skin cancer, while UVB cause sunburns that can lead to cancer.
SPFÂ #: The SPF number is essentially an indicator of time. So, SPF 50 means that it will take 50 times as long for your skin to burn with the sunscreen than without.
Waterproof, Sweatproof, Sunblock: You will no longer be seeing these terms on sunscreen labels. Water-resistant can still be used, but the label should tell you whether the sunscreen should be reapplied after 40 minutes or 80.
What else should you remember? Sunscreen needs to be applied throughout the day. Most people put it on once and forget about it … or, according to Elizabeth Martin, M.D.â€”a dermatologist in Hoover, AL, they only use 25â€“50% of what they need to begin with. According to Vincent Iannelli, M.D., you should use approximately half a teaspoon of sunscreen for your child’s head and neck, a half a teaspoon for each arm, and one teaspoon for each of the following: abdomen, back, and each leg.
Check out About.com’s Pediatrics site for more information about sunscreen facts and myths.
photo credit: joe shlabotnik