Let’s Talk Sun Block

From comparing SPFs to deciding whether or not to use lotion or spray, picking the correct sun block involves multiple considerations. Not all sunscreens are made equal, and not every person requires the same amount of protection to keep their skin healthy. To help patients make more informed choices, Dermatology Associates provides a brief overview of the different aspects associated with sun block.

Lotion vs. Spray

While most sunscreens contain similar ingredients for absorbing and reflecting ultraviolet (UV) radiation, they come in diverse forms. Two of the most popular choices are sprays and lotions. Neither is necessarily more beneficial in protecting the skin from the sun’s rays than other, but each has different use, such as:


Since lotion has a thicker consistency, people must rub it into their skin when applying it. As a result, it may provide more thorough coverage than other types of sun block. Lotions also have a moisturizing quality, making them easy to use for people who wear makeup because it feels similar to some cosmetic products. Most importantly, sunscreen lotion aids with the prevention of lethal forms of skin cancer, such as melanoma.


Spray sun block is much easier to apply than lotion. It also creates less mess, does not produce a greasy sensation on the skin, and may enable the user to cover hard-to-reach areas of the body.

The caveat with spray varieties is that it can be difficult for a person to determine if they are completely covered. Sometimes, spray sunscreen is only providing surface protection and not getting deeper inside like lotion. Additionally, some brands of spray sun block include alcohol that causes further damage to the skin.

Regardless of the type of sun block a person chooses, they should follow best practices for application, such as putting sunscreen on 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors. It is also wise to reapply sun block every two or three hours, or more frequently depending on the time of day, the amount of time spent outside, and how much shade is available in the area.

Characteristics of a Quality Sunscreen

Given the numerous options people have for selecting a sun block, it can be challenging to distinguish a high-quality product from a less effective one. To help people make the right choice, dermatologists cite the following traits as indicators of a good sunscreen:

Broad-Spectrum Coverage

Rays from the sun produce multiple types of ultraviolet light, and people need protection against each one. The best sun blocks will provide coverage against UVA and UVB light.


People who do not use water-resistant sunscreen while poolside or at the beach do themselves a serious disservice. Once they get in the water, their protection may wear off. Therefore, using waterproof sun block ensures a more lasting effect. However, reapplying throughout the day is still essential with water-resistant sunscreen.


Besides damaging the skin, the sun also diminishes the presence of antioxidants in the skin. Luckily, some sunscreens feature antioxidants like vitamin E, allowing a person to protect their skin while outside and also retain vital antioxidants. However, people should be cautious with these ingredients, as some antioxidants, such as vitamin A, can compound a person’s chance of developing skin conditions.

Understanding Sun Protection Factor (SPF)

Sunscreens are often differentiated based on their SPF values. SPF refers to the amount of UV radiation required to create sunburn on a person using sunscreen compared with someone using no protection.

Generally speaking, a higher SPF means greater sunburn protection. However, a common misunderstanding about SPF is that it correlates with time spent in the sun. For instance, a person may think SPF 30 means they can stay outside on a sunny day for 30 hours and stay protected.

This attitude ignores the fact that SPF has more to do with the amount of solar exposure than time. If a person spends only an hour outside in the middle of the day, when the sun’s rays are more intense, they may need more sunscreen than someone who spends several hours outdoors in the evening or early morning.

Additionally, people should understand that the higher the SPF value, the less significant the difference in protection. According to American Cancer Society, SPF 15 sun block filters out approximately 93% of UVB rays, while SPF 30 options capture about 97%. However, SPF 100 sunscreens only block out 99% of UVB rays compared to SPF 50 selections, which filter out 98%. In short, people must assess each situation to establish which SPF is best and how much sun block is necessary.

Obtain a Professional Medical Opinion

Individuals experiencing the ill effects of improper sunscreen use can turn to Dermatology Associates for comprehensive and compassionate care. The experienced doctors and staff utilize state-of-the-art procedures to treat a host of skin cancers and conditions, educating their patients on different care plans throughout the process.

Since 2008, Dermatology Associates has served patients throughout the Central New York area. Contact the office to learn more about their services or to schedule an appointment today.






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