The Importance of Using The Right Sunscreen On Vacation

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Many of our childhoods included sunny days in tank tops and shorts, running and playing outside at home or on vacation to a sunny destination. As years have gone by and science has progressed, we are even more aware of the harmful effects of UV rays on the skin, but still, Americans fight against the wise advice to use sunscreen. A study found that even many melanoma survivors are back to tanning sans-sunscreen once they have completed treatment.

The problem of sunscreen is even more complicated for those who do choose to wear it. The concept of SPF is misunderstood, and finding the right sunscreen is more and more difficult as there are more options on the shelves. Between SPF level, application method, and ingredients, consumers are very confused about how to select the right sunscreen. Here’s a three-step guide to purchasing sunscreen for everyday use and vacation:

Wear sunscreen

This is by far the easiest advice to follow. No matter which sunscreen you choose, it is sure to be more effective than wearing none at all. Be sure to consult the package directions for how to apply, and reapply every two hours while you are exposed to the sun. Sometimes while you’re having fun on vacation, it’s hard to tell that you’re getting burnt. If you are being active or jumping in and out of the water, reapply more often, according to the FDA.

Understand what SPF means

Many people think that a higher SPF is a safer alternative. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, an SPF of 15 means that it will take 15 times as long for your skin to redden while wearing it. So if it might usually take only 10 minutes, it would take 2.5 hours while wearing SPF 15. For pale-skinned people prone to sunburn, bumping up to the next SPF level may be a wise choice. For the majority of people, however, SPF 15 will be sufficient to take with you on vacation.

Read the ingredient label

There are potentially harmful ingredients lurking in sunscreen bottles. Oxybenzone, for example, is a chemical that absorbs ultraviolet light but might also be absorbed into the skin when it is included in sunscreen formulations. While the FDA and American Academy of Dermatology have ruled it safe for use, the Environmental Working Group and other toxicologists cite research which has linked the chemical to hormone disruption and skin cancer. Another ingredient to avoid, according to the Environmental Working Group, is retinyl palminate.

About the Author: Ali is a guest contributor for Four Kachinas Inn, a bed and breakfast in sunny Santa Fe, New Mexico.