When you choose a sunblock, make sure that it copes with both UVA and UVB rays.
“There are two classes of ultraviolet rays. UVB causes sunburn and blisters,” Dr. Jeffrey Popp said.
“But UVA is worse because it penetrates deeper into your skin. It’s more likely to cause wrinkles, sun damage and skin cancer.”
He said sunblock manufacturers rarely distinguish between UVA and UVB blockers. As a result, you may think you’re fully protected, but you might not be.
The two kinds of sunblock
- Absorptive sunblock: When ultraviolet light hits the active chemical, it turns into heat. This energy is absorbed into your body.
- Reflective sunblock: When UV light hits this active ingredient, it’s reflected like light from a mirror.
“Each works in different ways,” Dr. Popp said. “The reflective sunblocks tend to have more natural ingredients, things like zinc oxide or titanium oxide.”
“SPF” stands for Sun Protection Factor. Many people don’t know the measurement relates only to UVB. It doesn’t address UVA at all.
And without UVA blockers in your sunblock, although you shouldn’t get sunburnt, you’re unprotected against skin wrinkles or skin cancer.
Dr. Popp recommends Neutrogena Helioplex, calling it “a good UVA blocker.”
How to find the best sunblock
With dozens of sunblocks to choose from, how do you know which is best for you?
Dr. Popp suggests you look at Environmental Working Group’s online sunscreen guide.
“They rate sunblocks on their ability to block UVA and UVB light. They also list their dangers,” he said.
“There are some bad chemicals out there. Some sunblocks actually contain neurotoxins. ”
The online guide identifies those sunblocks best for your skin type. Its ratings help you narrow the search.
And when in doubt, Dr. Popp said he uses a “rule of thumb.”
“Overall, reflective sunblocks are much safer.”
Have a question for Dr. Popp? Click the “contact” button at the top of this page or call his office at 402.391.4558.