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What To Look For When Choosing Sunscreen

It’s summer time! That means it’s time to think about sunscreen, sun protection, and enjoying Colorado’s outdoors.

How do you go about picking a sunscreen? Reading the label can feel like learning a foreign language. What does it all mean?

SPF (Sun Protection Factor)

– SPF 30 or higher is recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology
– It comes from dividing the amount of time it takes to have a sunburn on skin with sunscreen by the time it takes to get a sunburn on skin without sunscreen
– Only estimates protection against one type of UV rays (UVB)

Broad Spectrum

– Always buy sunscreen with Broad Spectrum on the label
– Only sunscreens labeled Broad Spectrum protect against both types of UV rays (both UVA and UVB)


– Barrier sunscreens are best
– Look for zinc oxide and titanium dioxide on the label
– May still have white color on skin after applying
– Avoid sunscreens with oxybenzone because it has some mild hormonal properties

Reapply, Reapply Reapply!

– Always reapply sunscreen every 2-3 hours, more often if swimming or in water
– Always use adequate amounts of sunscreen. The average adult should use about 1 oz per full body application
– Remember, for infants older than 6mo old slather it on. For infants less than 6mo old, use small amount on exposed areas only (hands, nose, face).

Photoprotective Clothing

– Measured with UPF (ultraviolet protective factor)
– Good: UPF 15-24
– Very Good: UPF 25-39
– Excellent: UPF 40-50
– Shirts, hats, blankets, shorts all available
– Great for babies and children of all ages (great protection for infants less than 6mo)

General Sun Safety Reminders

– Avoid peak sun exposure (stay indoors as much as possible between 10am and 4pm)
– Infants less than 6mo old should stay in the shade as much as possible
– Reapply sunscreen frequently!
– Stay hydrated, make sure you and your child are drinking plenty of water

Feel free to give our office a call with any questions. As always this is intended for informational purposes only, it does not replace consultation with a medical professional.



American Academy of Dermatology Sun Protection Basic Dermatology Education Module

Dr. Andrea Mertz