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Choosing Sunscreen? How to Decode the Labels
Date:7/15/2012

SATURDAY, July 14 (HealthDay News) -- You may know that it's important to protect your skin when you're outdoors this summer, but you need to know how to pick the correct sunscreen and how to apply it, the American Academy of Dermatology says.

"Consumers can be overwhelmed by the large number of sunscreen products available and because of that they avoid using sunscreen all together, resulting in sunburn and overexposure to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation," dermatologist Dr. Henry Lim said in an AAD news release.

"Dermatologists can provide the public with the information they need to make smart choices when it comes to sun protection, which can help reduce their risk for skin cancer, and keep their skin looking healthy and youthful," he added.

The AAD says you should read the label on sunscreen products and use only those that offer:

  • Broad-spectrum coverage (label may say "broad spectrum," "protects against UVA/UVB" or "UVA/UVB protection").
  • SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Water resistance.

The AAD also recommends that you: re-apply sunscreen every two hours when outdoors; find shade whenever your shadow appears to be shorter than you are; wear protective clothing, including long sleeves, pants, wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.

An AAD online survey found that many people are still confused about SPF numbers and how to use sunscreen correctly. Only 18 percent of respondents knew that a sunscreen with SPF 30 does not provide twice the protection of an SPF 15, and only 28 percent of respondents who said they sometimes or always use sunscreen reapplied sunscreen every two hours.

UV protection does not increased proportionately with a designated SPF number, Lim said. An SPF 30 screens out 97 percent of UV rays, an SPF 15 screens 93 percent of UV rays, and an SPF 2 screens 50 percent of UV rays, he explained.

Lim also noted that not applying enough sunscreen or not covering
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