Health & Fitness

All Your Sunscreen Questions Answered

May 22, 2019

All Your Sunscreen Questions Answered

It’s been an incredibly rainy, dreary spring so of course when the sun made an appearance at my daughter’s lacrosse game last Saturday, not one of us thought to shield our kids, or ourselves, from the sunshine we’ve been so missing. A few hours of basking in the sunshine lead to rosy faces and very tender necks.  Because sunscreen has been such a hot button topic recently, I decided it was time to educate myself on the most recent sunscreen guidelines. Here is what I found.

Despite all of the controversy over sunscreen ingredients (click here to review findings from the new study) dermatologists still say that “lathering up before spending time outdoors is a must.”

The truth is that 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime and 1 person dies from Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, every hour.”

So let’s dive into some basic life-saving Do’s and Don’ts.

Help written with sun cream on a woman's shoulder, horizontal


DON’T choose a sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of anything lower than 30. Why?  SPF 15 filters only 93% of the sun’s UVB rays (the rays that BURN). While SPF 30 filters 97% of the sun’s UVB rays.

DO choose a sunscreen with;

  1. an SPF of 30 or higher,
  2. is water resistant,
  3. provides broad-spectrum coverage. Broad spectrum coverage provides protection from both UVA (the sun’s rays responsible for signs of aging) and UVB (the sun’s rays responsible for burning).

DON’T assume water resistant means waterproof. No sunscreen is 100% waterproof.

DO keep in mind how long your sunscreen is water resistant for. It’s either resistant for 40 minutes or 80 minutes and will be indicated on the label. This tells you how long that particular sunscreen stays effective while in the water.


Reading the ingredient lists of the hundreds of sunscreen options would be exhausting.  Instead, I turned to my incredible dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth Cardone to get her recommendations. Dr. Cardone is a board-certified dermatologist and mother of three.

shelves of sunscreen bottles, tubes and sprays in a drug store
Sunscreen Options


  • Vanicream Sunscreen Sport Broad Spectrum SPF 35 is great for face and body. It is water resistant (80 minutes), provides broad spectrum protection and free of dyes, fragrance, masking fragrance, lanolin, parabens, formaldehyde, other preservatives, oil, odor, and gluten.
  • Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Oxide Dry-Touch Sunscreen Lotion with Broad Spectrum SPF 50. It is water resistant (80 minutes), provides broad spectrum protection and is free of fragrance, parabens, phthalates, dyes & irritating chemicals and features Dry-Touch technology to help ensure this sheer sunscreen dries with a non-greasy finish.
  • I’m also a huge fan of Supergoops new line SUNNY SCREEN and Dr. Cardone says she approves. The “SPF Zero Compromise” formulas are 100% non-nano mineral sunscreen designed for babies and toddlers.


Sunscreen for teens can be tricky. From experience, I’ve learned that it’s hard to convince your teen or preteen to wear physical sunscreen that goes on thick and wears white.  Dr. Cardone also brought to my attention that many teens and pre-teens are dealing with acne so for those reasons she recommends a non-comedogenic (formulated so as not to cause blocked pores) lotions like the ones listed below:

  • CeraVe Sun Protection SPF 30 Sunscreen Face lotions is an ultra lightweight non-comedogenic broad spectrum, water resistant (40 minutes) sunscreen that is also oil-free and dries clear. My kids specifically request sunscreen that dries clear. I get it.
  • La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra Light Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50. It provides broad spectrum SPF 50, it’s water resistant (40 minutes), paraben and fragrance-free.  I love it because of its 100% mineral UV filter system is fast absorbing, has a weightless texture and a matte finish that is non-whitening. 

My kids seem to prefer  La Roche-Posay Anthelios.



Now that you’ve purchased the right sunscreen, let’s be sure you use it correctly. Application guidelines are pretty straight forward, but not often followed.

DON’T apply when you have just arrived at the beach, pool or soccer field!

DO apply approximately 15 minutes before going outside so it has time to take effect. Reapply approximately every two hours, even on overcast days, and immediately after swimming or sweating.

DO use at least 1oz to cover an adult body and about a nickel-sized dollop for the face. Be sure to cover your entire body including the parts we tend to neglect like the feet, hands, scalp, back of the legs and ears.


The FDA is calling for more safety data on the following 12 ingredients before determining whether these ingredients can be classified as GRASE (General Recognition of Safety and Effectiveness):

  • Ingredients commonly used in the U.S.: ensulizole, octisalate, homosalate, octocrylene, octinoxate, oxybenzone, avobenzone.
  • Ingredients not frequently used in the U.S.: Cinoxate, dioxybenzone, meradimate, padimate O, sulisobenzone.

For more information on this complicated topic click here


Current guidelines state that unless there is an expiration date on your sunscreen bottle, you can assume it has a 3-year shelf life.


The American Academy of Dermatology recommends we perform regular skin self-exams every 3 months. In addition, if you are at risk you should see a board-certified dermatologist every year. Several dermatologists suggest getting at least a baseline skin exam (by a board-certified dermatologist) starting in early adulthood. There is no one-size-fits-all plan so speak to your general practitioner and dermatologist and see what is the best plan for you.

Click here to learn more about how to spot skin cancer.

For more information head to The American Academy of Dermatology

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