What kind of sunscreen should I use?

Today is Summer Solstice, and here in Maine, the sun is high in the sky with hardly a cloud to be seen. It’s a perfect day to go to the beach, but don’t forget to pack some sunscreen. Knowing what’s the best kind and how high an SPF you need can be confusing, so we asked an expert.

Our question: What kind of sunscreen should I use?

The answer comes from Holly Morozov, a Nurse Practitioner at Southern Maine Health Care Dermatology.

“Sunscreen is essential for the prevention of skin cancer and photo-aging. Sunscreen should be worn daily and re-applied every 60-90 minutes when in the sun.

There are two types of sunscreens — physical blockers and chemical absorbers. Physical blockers sit on the skin and refract UV light, whereas chemical blockers absorb the light and release it in the form of heat.

The best sunscreens contain physical blockers like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Chemical sunscreens tend to be more cosmetically pleasing as they do not leave a white film on the skin; however newer formulations of physical blockers are more transparent than past products. Additionally, chemical sunscreens are more likely to irritate the skin and cause dermatitis.

SPF 15 or higher is adequate for everyday use (such as in a daily facial moisturizer). However, SPF 30 to 45 should be applied for direct, extended sun exposure. Sunscreens are not waterproof. Some formulations are more water resistant than others, but all sunscreens must be re-applied at least every 60-90 minutes.

Even the best sunscreen will not provide 100% protection from the sun’s harmful rays. Sun-protective clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, UV-blocking sunglasses, and minimizing sun exposure, especially between the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM, are vital for healthy skin.”

Thanks for the information Holly. And I hope you all enjoy a happy and safe summer!

Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane was the health reporter on WCSH 6. Before that, a radiation therapist at Maine Medical Center and after, Manager of Marketing/PR at Mercy Hospital. She now hosts and produces the Catching Health podcast and writes the award-winning blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.