Sunscreens have been around for many years but very individuals understand the science behind it. Most people are confused as to which is the best product and when to use them. The majority of individuals just rush and buy the most expensive product on the shelf.

Sunscreen Types

There are many sunscreens available and often the consumer is confused and bewildered by the range. The first thing to do before buying a sunscreen is to read the label and check out the ingredients. The majority of sunscreens contain two basic types of chemicals. These include a combination of organic and inorganic ingredients. In the older days, sunscreens only contained either organic or inorganic ingredients.

The organic ingredients include various organic compounds including parsol 1789. These compounds are essential in blocking UV light

The inorganic ingredients include zinc or titanium. Both these chemicals when applied to the skin block not only UV rays but also visible sunlight.

The older sunscreens were thick, viscous and pasty, looking like chunks of wet powder when applied. Today however, the formulations are ultra fine and are transparent. When applied to the skin they have a smooth and silky feeling. These newer and microfine oxides of zinc or titanium are easier to apply and are more protective.

When it comes to price, more expensive sun screen are not necessarily better. Cheaper products may be just as good as along as they contain similar ingredients.

There are many products which claim complete UVA protection but infact offer very little protection. This is because the sunscreen industry is poorly regulated and the quality control is not universal.

There are many sunscreens which only protect against UV light but do not protect against the visible spectrum of light. This of importance in individuals who are sensitive to the visible sunlight. Individuals who need protection from the visible light spectrum are those who have atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, porphyria, lupus and many other disorders. Sunscreens which do not cover visible light protection offer no help to these individuals.

It is important when selecting a sunscreen that the inorganic ingredients like zinc or titanium is present. These chemicals do provide protection against visible light.


In general, when buying a sunscreen one should look for the SPF or sun protection factor. The sun protection factor (SPF) on all sunscreen labels is a ratio based on the amount of UVB (not UVA) radiation required to turn sunscreen- or sun block-treated skin red compared to non-treated skin. Sunscreens vary in SPF ranges from 2-30. The higher the number, the more protection. In general those who sunburn easily should use a higher SPF

SPF Levels by Age

Certain groups should have higher or lower SPFs depending on age and other factors:

Young children: The use of sunscreen in infants and young children is questionable. The safety of these compounds is still being questioned so in the meantime, sunscreens should be used with caution. Covering the younger children with hats and clothing may be a safer alternative

Older children: Older children who are frequently out in the sun can be safely

protected with the use of SPF of 15 and over

Adults: For those who burn easily and those who are prone to skin lesions, SPF of 30 is highly recommended.

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