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Decoding Sunscreen Labels

Do you get confused and overwhelmed by the labels on sunscreens when you’re shopping? Well you’re not alone! According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, many people don’t know what all the different terms mean so we’re going to decode them for you below. 


SPF: Stands for sun protection factor, and the number tells you how much ultraviolet (UV) B light can be filtered out.

Broad spectrum: The sunscreen can protect from both UVA and UVB rays from the sun.

Water resistant: How long the sunscreen will stay on wet skin. “Water resistant” means the sunscreen stays effective for 40 minutes in the water, and “very water resistant” means that it can stay effective for 80 minutes in the water, after which you will need to reapply.

Chemical sunscreen: Protects the skin by absorbing the sun’s UV rays.

Physical sunscreen: Protects by deflecting the sun’s UV rays.

Sports sunscreen: This is not a term defined by the FDA but usually this is also referring to the water resistance of the sunscreen - check the label to see if it is “water resistant” or “very water resistant” to determine how long it will stay on wet skin. 

Baby sunscreen: This term is also not defined by the FDA, but it usually means that it is a physical sunscreen, containing titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide as it is less likely to irritate a baby’s skin.

Sensitive skin: In general this means the sunscreen is a physical sunscreen and contains zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide; does not contain oils, fragrances, PABA, or chemical sunscreen ingredients that can irritate the skin; and is hypoallergenic.

 

We hope this helped to decode and familiarize you with the different terms that may be on the labels of sunscreen bottles!

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