Here’s a question for you – why is it important to read a sunscreen label correctly? It is essential to know that no sunscreen product can offer 100 percent protection against the sun’s UV rays. There are products on the market that provide UV protection close to that level. Get informed on what exactly you are putting on your skin.

Continue reading and learn how to decode the ingredients on the back of your sunscreen bottle.


Broad-Spectrum: The use of sunscreens containing broad-spectrum can assist in the prevention of skin cancer, early skin aging, and sunburn. This ingredient protects against ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Both solar wavelengths are proven to damage the skin and cause cancer. UVA rays penetrate the skin deeper than UVB, causing wrinkles, sagging, and premature aging. UVB rays damage the skin’s upper surface and are the leading cause of sunburn.

The UV radiation in sunlight is divided into several ranges depending on the wavelength. The U.S. Broad Spectrum Test is a laboratory test that measures a sunscreen product’s absorbance of UV rays across the UVB and UVA regions of the spectrum. The test is referred to as the ‘critical wavelength’ test.

Sun Protection Factor (SPF): SPF measures the level of protection a person receives from sunscreen before UVB rays start to burn the skin. With no sunscreen, your skin starts to redden in 20-minutes. The SPF numbers are determined in a lab. The number associated with SPF shows how much UVB light sunscreen can filter out. For example, SPF 15 covers 93 percent of the sun’s UVB rays, and SPF 30 covers 97 percent of the sun’s UVB rays. The higher the SPF, the more sunburn protection a sunscreen offers.

The Skin Cancer Foundation Seal of Recommendation: The seal of recommendation proves that a product is safe and effective. Scientific data for each product submitted for the Seal of Recommendation is reviewed by a volunteer committee of photobiologists, experts who study interactions between UV rays and the skin. The Daily Use Seal is used for sunscreens that protect against sun exposure in short periods; includes UVA protection requirement. The Active Seal is awarded to sunscreens intended to protect against extended sun exposure during recreational activities; includes UVA protection and water resistance requirement.

Active Ingredients: The two main types of active sun ingredients are chemical and physical. The label lists these primary ingredients in sunscreens that protect skin against UV rays. Chemical ingredients (avobenzone, benzophenone) absorb UV rays and reduce penetration into the skin. Physical ingredients (titanium dioxide, zinc oxide) lay on top of the skin and deflect UV rays.

Additional terms labeled on sunscreen: 


The FDA regulates sunscreens as over-the-counter drugs. The FDA ensures sunscreen products are safe and effective. The FDA reviews proper sunscreen active ingredients. Only ingredients on the FDA’s approved list are to be used in sunscreen products marketed in the United States.

Sunscreen effectiveness is determined by a variety of factors from SPF, broad-spectrum protection, water-resistance, and if the product is used as instructed. The sunscreen requirements of FDA’s rules outline how marketed sunscreen products are to be labeled and tested for UVA and UVB protection. All sunscreens in the U.S. must be tested for SPF performance using the same FDA designated clinical tests. The SPF value on sunscreen products is reliable and credible by the use of testing methods; ensuring sunscreens are safe and effective in protecting the consumer from harmful rays.

The amount of protection received from a sunscreen depends on the following factors:

Sunscreens do lose effectiveness over time, so it’s crucial to reapply every two hours and after swimming or heavy sweating. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, or an SPF of 30 or higher for extended stays outdoors.


At The Dermatology Center for Skin Health, PLLC., we want you to be safe and knowledgeable when it comes to your skincare.

For further prevention methods from skin cancer, our team recommends:

Our priority is to deliver quality care in a comfortable setting. Our experienced medical professionals believe that informed patients are better equipped to make decisions about their health and well-being.

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