Sunscreen savvy: The basic guide to summer skin protection

With countless sunscreens on the market, choosing the safest and most effective can be overwhelming.

“I tell people to protect their skin every day with a broad spectrum sunscreen, SPF 30 or higher,” according to Dr Elizabeth Hale [1]. She added that broad-spectrum sunscreens protect from both UVA and UVB radiation [2].

“That SPF number, that refers to a product’s ability to block UVB, which are shorter wavelength, and those are the rays that cause sunburn. But every single day, ultraviolet A rays, or UVA, those are longer wavelength,” Hale explained. 

“Those penetrate every day, year-round, even through windows, through clouds, even in the middle of winter. They can contribute to skin cancer, and otherwise aging of the skin.”

In general, there are two types of sunscreen: chemical and mineral. 

As a physical shield, mineral sunscreens sit on top of your skin and deflect the sun’s rays. Their main ingredients are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, minerals classified as “safe and effective” by the Food and Drug Administration [3].

If you plan to swim or sweat, you may want a chemical sunscreen that absorbs the sun’s rays. Although, some doctors argue that even though chemicals like oxybenzone can be detected in the blood for weeks after use, they are not harmful.

However, the FDA says more studies must be conducted before chemical sunscreens can be deemed safe. “We recommend that consumers avoid products using oxybenzone,” per David Andrews, a senior scientist with the nonprofit Environmental Working Group. “But use is associated with potential impact on our endocrine system and development.”

Additionally, sunscreen should be just one part of your sun protection regimen. Sunscreens, wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts and seeking shade during peak sun hours are all ways to shield your skin from harmful UV rays further.

By taking a proactive approach to sun protection and staying informed about the latest research and recommendations, you can enjoy the outdoors while keeping your skin safe and healthy all summer.

Remember, it’s always a good idea to consult a dermatologist or healthcare professional for personalized advice on sun protection based on your skin type and any specific concerns you may have.


The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.