Buyer’s Guide: How to Buy Sunscreen

Check out my Buyer’s Guide featured on


If you play outdoors and plan to stay outdoors, sunscreen ranks right up there with water and proper attire as a necessity. Since neglecting your skin during your adventures can lead to sunstroke, sunburn, blisters, and even a trip to the doctor, basic knowledge about this wondrous protective invention could save you pain and even save your life. Here are a few topics that will help you learn how to choose the best sunscreen for your style.

The Basics

SPF: The Sun Protective Factor (SPF) is typically labeled on every bottle of sunscreen. This is a laboratory rating which tells you how much protection from the sun you’ll actually be getting when you apply the lotion, spray, or gel. Now, according to new FDA regulations, SPF not only refers to how much protection you’ll receive from UVB (ultraviolent rays) but also UVA rays which damage the skin, cause wrinkles, and can increase the risk of cancer. The general consensus among doctors is that an SPF of 30 is sufficient protection and anything above that really doesn’t give you added protection and is just putting more chemicals on your body.

Waterproof: We recommend “water resistant” sunscreen, as do most doctors and outdoor enthusiasts. Since most of us sweat when we’re gettin’ our out-of-doors recreation on, the water resistant factor helps us to stay protected longer. However, it is important to note that no sunscreen is truly “waterproof” and, therefore, must be continuously reapplied to maintain effectiveness.

How Long Does it Last? The FDA recommends that you reapply sunscreen every two hours, particularly if you’ve been sweating or swimming.

Ingredients: Sunscreen uses various ingredients to protect the skin from UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreen integrates chemical blocks and physical block ingredients. Chemical blocks prevent sunlight from penetrating within the skin. Physical blocks reflect UV rays away from the skin. UVB blocks include zinc oxide, titanium oxide and PABA (Para Aminobenzoic Acid). UVA ingredients include Benzoophenones, Oxybenzone, Dioxybenzine and Avobenzone.

Application Style

Lotion: For many years, the lotion variety of sunscreen has been one of the only and most popular options for consumers.

Pros: Can be effectively spread all over the body for even coverage.

Cons: Messy and can come off on clothes.

Spray-On: Spray-on sunscreens have become very popular in recent years and offer several benefits.

Pros: Less messy and less “greasy” than lotions. Are easier to self-apply is areas such as the   neck and back.

Cons: Some use CFCs and other “aerosol” like chemicals can damage the environment    and may be harmful when inhaled.

Stick: This glue-stick like applicator is one of our personal favorites.

Pros: Small, portable, and provides excellent coverage, particularly for the face, neck and ears. Not “greasy” and no “aerosol” like fumes to be inhaled.

Cons: Because these sticks are small, they take longer to apply than the lotions or sprays and run out more quickly.