Glossary of Sunscreen Terms to Stay Informed
Let us first congratulate you on wanting to do better for your skin, especially with summer right around the corner. While the initial thought of buying sunscreen seems relatively simple, for first-timers, not so much! There are so many different types of sunscreen with different ingredients and SPF levels -- frankly, it can be overwhelming.
In order to make an informed decision, you need to know the terms that are used during the marketing and production of sunscreen. Here are the terms that you need to know:
• Broad spectrum – this type of sunscreen protects the skin from both UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays cause burning while UVA is the culprit behind those sun spots and prematurely aged skin. In order to be labeled as broad-spectrum, the FDA requires strict testing.
• Chemical - refers to a sunscreen that protects you from UV rays by absorbing the sun rays i.e. the sunscreen contains certain chemical ingredients that absorb UV rays.
• Chemically tested - this shows that the sunscreen is tested by professionals before use. For instance, those who have sensitive skins can look for chemically tested sunscreens to avoid skin reactions.
• Gluten-free - these are sunscreens that do not contain gluten ingredients.
• Hypoallergic - sunscreens with a low probability of causing allergic reactions are referred to as hypoallergic.
• Mineral - these are sunscreens that achieve their SPF factor by using physical blockers such as Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide.
• Noncomedogenic - since you cannot be sure which beauty products can cause pimples, you should be very cautious. If you are prone to acne, sunscreens that have drying salicylic acid or zinc oxide are the best because those rich in cocoa butter or coconut oil can cause pimples.
• Oil-free - this shows that the sunscreen does not contain any type of oils. However, this does not mean that the sunscreen might lack other occlusives like silicone.
• Organic - label certifying that the ingredients used were farmed organically.
• Reef-friendly or reef safe - the two terms are used if a sunscreen does not contain any of these 5 ingredients: octinoxate, octocrylene, oxybenzone, Butylparaben, and 4-methylbenzylidene. According to research, these ingredients can affect the ability of coral to reproduce by either killing or harming the coral larvae. Therefore, some people prefer using reef-safe or reef-friendly sunscreens.
• Sand resistant - a term used to show how sand repellant a sunscreen can be depending on the type of sand i.e. fine, medium. Sunscreen can be tested in a lab against different sand textures to see if the SPF level changes.
• Sensitive - if you have a sensitive sunscreen, look at the label of the sunscreen to determine its sensitivity. In addition, physical sunscreens are better than chemical ones because they do not cause skin irritation.
• SPF level - SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and determines the amount of protection from UVB rays only. This is because UVA rays are not currently rated.
• Sport - a sunscreen that has this term can resist water for about 80 minutes.
• UVA - penetrates deep into the skin attacking the living cells causing long-term damage such as sunspots, prematurely aging, and some skin cancers.
• UVB - the culprit behind skin reddening and sunburn, tends to damage the skin's more superficial epidermal layers. Causes most forms of skin cancer.
• Water resistant - these sunscreens are resistant to water or while sweating for long periods of time. If you want to engage in water activities while protecting yourself from sun rays, these are the ideal choice. A test would be performed by a professional lab to determine if a sunscreen is water resistant, and this claim would be clearly marked on the product label.