Skip to main content.

How to Choose a Sunscreen

Sunscreen helps to protect your skin from sunburn, early skin aging and skin cancer. Everyone should use sunscreen because anyone can get skin cancer, regardless of age, gender or race.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says you should read the label on sunscreen products and use only those that offer:

  • Broad-spectrum coverage (label may say "broad spectrum," "protects against UVA/UVB" or "UVA/UVB protection").
  • SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Water resistance.

Follow these helpful tips related to sunscreen:

  • Apply sunscreen 15 minutes prior to going outside.
  • Use enough product to cover all skin that clothing will not cover. Most adults need about 1 ounce — or enough to fill a shot glass — to fully cover their body.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours when outdoors or immediately after swimming or sweating, according to the directions on the bottle.
  • For those with sensitive skin, look for mineral sunscreens that contain zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide in their ingredients.

The kind of sunscreen you use is a matter of personal choice and may vary depending on the area of the body to be protected. Available sunscreen options include lotions, creams, gels, ointments, wax sticks and sprays.   

Sprays are sometimes preferred since they are easy to apply. However, their coverage and ability to stay on your skin isn’t as effective as well as creams, lotions or gels. Make sure to use enough of these products to thoroughly cover all exposed skin. Do not inhale these products or apply near heat, open flame or while smoking. According to the AAD, current FDA regulations on testing and standardization do not pertain to spray sunscreens. The agency continues to evaluate these products to ensure safety and effectiveness.

There also are sunscreens made for specific purposes, such as for sensitive skin and babies.  

While sunscreen is important, it alone cannot fully protect you. Dermatologists recommend taking the following steps to protect your skin:

  • Seek shade when appropriate and avoid the sun when it’s strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • Wear a lightweight long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, when possible.
  • Use extra caution near water, snow and sand as they reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.
  • Get your vitamin D safely through a healthy diet or vitamin supplements as opposed to from the sun.
  • Avoid tanning beds and instead, use a self-tanning product. Don’t forget — you still need to wear sunscreen.

Early detection is key. Conduct regular skin checks and notice any new or changing, itching or bleeding on your skin. If you notice any new or changing skin lesions, it is best to get these checked by a dermatologist as soon as possible.

Online Dermatology Visits


Options to Request an Appointment

If your situation is an emergency, call 911.