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The inside (and outside) information on broad spectrum sunscreen

Sunscreen is an essential beach day go-to, but choosing the right one is not always easy.

What do terms like SPF and broad spectrum sunscreen really mean, and which is most important in sun care? 

Being aware of your sun protection factor number

Your sunscreen’s SPF rating tells you how long it is likely to take before your skin begins to turn red from ultraviolet light exposure.

The higher the number, the longer it will theoretically take for you to begin burning. The SPF rating tells you what to expect on the surface of your skin, but there’s an inside story as well.

Being informed on ultraviolet light

Not all UV rays are the same. Just as there are different shades of color, there are different forms of light. Shortwave UV rays are referred to as UVB and are the primary cause of sunburn damage. 

UV rays with longer wavelengths are designated as UVA, which can travel through cloud cover, unlaminated glass, and the surface of your skin into the dermal (middle) layer of your skin.

Both types of rays can cause skin and eye damage and may be linked to cancer. Notably, the SPF rating on a sunscreen bottle only measures the sunscreen's ability to filter UVB rays, not UVA.

Being safer with broad spectrum sunscreen

Broad spectrum sunscreen is specially formulated to protect against both UVB and UVA radiation and provide sun protection on bright or cloudy days.

Products may contain physical sunscreen ingredients that reflect and absorb sunlight, or chemical ingredients designed to absorb UV energy before it reaches your skin. Multiple clinical studies document the benefits of sunscreens that offer photoprotection across the UV spectrum over those that are SPF-rated alone.

If you have decided to use sunscreen that protects your skin from both UVA and UVB, congratulations! Now you just need a game plan.

Being UV ready

You can start by choosing a water-resistant broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more.

We recommend cream or liquid for a smooth and even application. Hands-free applicators can add convenience to protection, making it easier and quicker to reapply. When possible, rub sunscreen on clean, dry skin 15 minutes before going outside.

Be sure to put more on every two hours, or more frequently if you are swimming or physically active.

Improve your look and health with sunglasses rated for a UV absorption factor of 100%, or labeled as “UV absorption up to 400nm.” We also recommend wearing UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) clothing and accessories, spending time in the shade, and avoiding being outside during peak UV hours (typically around 10am-2pm). 

Being comfortable in your skin with broad spectrum sunscreen

It is important to find a product you are comfortable using any time you go outdoors. Clair Obscur recommends trying several different sunscreens until you find one that feels right, replenishes your skin, and offers the sun protection you need.