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How To Pick The Best Sunscreen For You

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Confused about the best sunscreen to use? Wondering whether sunscreen can be harmful? Lawrence Gibson, M.D., a dermatologist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., offers his guidance.

 What’s the best way to sort through information about sunscreens?
Start by remembering the bigger picture when it comes to sun safety and what you can do to protect yourself. For example:
  • Avoid the sun during peak hours. Generally, this is between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. — regardless of season. These are prime hours for exposure to skin-damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, even on overcast days.
  • Wear protective clothing. This includes pants, shirts with long sleeves and sunglasses. Top it off with a wide-brimmed hat. Also, consider investing in sun-protective clothing or using an umbrella for shade.
  • Use sunscreen. Apply sunscreen generously and reapply regularly.
 Is there any truth to the claim that sunscreen use encourages excessive sun exposure and, as a result, increases the risk of skin cancer?

Most experts strongly disagree with this claim. Research also hasn’t shown a link between sunscreen use and an increase in the risk of skin cancer. On the other hand, research has shown that use of sunscreen can reduce the risk of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer.

What does a broad-spectrum sunscreen do?

There are two types of UV light that can harm your skin — UVA and UVB. A broad-spectrum, or full-spectrum, sunscreen is designed to protect you from both.

UVA rays can prematurely age your skin, causing wrinkling and age spots. UVB rays can burn your skin. Too much exposure to UVA or UVB rays can cause skin cancer. The best sunscreen offers protection from all UV light.

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