One of the most important things to pack for summer fun or outdoor work is sunscreen!

Nothing ruins a vacation more than a sunburn. Protecting yourself from too much sun is one of the more important safety things you can do.

Understanding how sunscreen works and what the labels mean is important to making sure you have the right kind of sunscreen because not all sunscreens are created equal. Understanding both what to buy and how to use sunscreen is critical to staying safe under summer skies.


There are two types of sun rays, UVA and UVB. Both can be harmful, but sunscreens vary in terms of which type of rays they help to protect against. UVA rays are the longer types of rays that cause skin damage, aging and some cancers. UVB are shorter rays that cause sunburns, skin damage and some cancers.

When selecting a sunscreen, you need to look for a broad-spectrum lotion that provides protections for both UVA and UVB.

The second issue is SPF.

Sunscreens come in various ratings for SPF. Your skin will begin to turn pink/red within 20 minutes of exposure to the sun. Sunscreens that have ratings of at least 15 SPF are supposed to be able to protect you for an additional 15 minutes. Of course, this assumes you are not wet or sweaty.

It also takes time for your cells to absorb the sunscreen to provide any protection. You should always plan to apply sunscreen 20 minutes BEFORE you expect to be in the sun. AND you should reapply sunscreen every 20 minutes after the first application or after getting wet.

The amount of sunscreen you use should be about 1 oz for each application. That is the equivalent of a shot glass of sunscreen for each person for each application. Many studies of sunscreen indicate that most people use only about 25% of the quantity needed to actually protect them.

And make sure that you apply sunscreen to the “forgotten spots”! These include the tops of your feet, back of your neck, behind your ears and along the part in your scalp.

A word about babies: The sensitive skin of babies under 6 months old can react badly to both the chemicals or sunscreen AND the sun exposure.
A rating of 15 SPF should block 93% of the UBV light. 30 SPF blocks 97% and 50% SPF blocks 98% of UBV light.