LAMAR, Mo. — Selecting the right sunscreen involves more than picking the product with highest SPF number, notes a University of Missouri Extension nutrition and health education specialist.

“Many of us use sunscreen, but the options can be confusing,” said Tammy Roberts.

Sunscreen protects us from ultraviolet radiation, which can damage and prematurely age skin as well as cause skin cancer. To avoid or at least minimize these effects, people need protection against two types of ultraviolet radiation: UVA and UVB.

Roberts notes that a sunscreen’s sun-protection factor, or SPF, only measures protection against UVB, the type that causes sunburn. Not all sunscreens  provide adequate protection against UVA.

“We used to believe that aging was the worst damage that UVA could do,” she said. “We now know that UVA can contribute to and may even initiate the development of skin cancers.”

UVA is 30 to 50 times more prevalent than UVB.  It penetrates the skin more deeply, can pass through window glass and light clothing, and its intensity varies little throughout the year.

To get protection against both UVA and UVB, look for a product with an SPF of at least 15 and that contains one of these ingredients: stabilized avobenzone, ecamsule (Mexoryl), oxybenzone, titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.

“Enjoy the summer, but make sure you are protected against the sun’s harmful rays. Be sure to reapply sunscreen after sweating and after swimming,” Roberts said.


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