We’ve all seen a sunscreen label that calls out the broad spectrum, but what does broad spectrum mean, and why it is so important? Broad spectrum sunscreen refers to formulas that protect skin from the two different types of rays UVA (ultraviolet A) and UVB (ultraviolet B). UVA rays are the ones responsible for premature aging and some types of cancers, while the stronger UVB rays can cause sunburns and most skin cancers. Since they are both damaging, it is important to protect the skin from both kinds.
The benefits of broad-spectrum sunscreen
UV Protection & Skin Cancer
A mineral or chemical sunscreen with broad spectrum should be used daily—not just when you’re out in the sun, because it has multiple benefits. The most important benefit of sun protection is to help prevent skin cancer. When your skin in unprotected, UVA and UVB rays can penetrate your skin and increase your risk of skin cancer.
Sun Damage & Sunburn
Another benefit is protecting your skin from sunburn and everything that comes along with it: burning, peeling, irritated, dry skin. Although everyone might not burn at the same rate, it’s important to protect skin every day and year-round from both types of rays.
Early Skin Aging
Keeping skin looking youthful is another bonus of using an organic sunscreen. Signs of premature aging caused by the sun include fine lines, wrinkles, age spots, and saggy skin. Using broad-spectrum SPF helps prevent new skin damage and avoid intensifying any skin issues you may already have.
What about sunscreen ingredients?
There are two types of ingredients in sunscreen formulas—active and inactive ones. Active ingredients are the ones that protect you from the sun’s rays, while inactive ones preserve the formula and hold it all together (think lotion, oil, water, etc).
The active ingredients in formulas differ based on whether they are a mineral (physical) sunscreen or chemical one. Mineral sunscreens sit atop the skin and contain active ingredients like Zinc oxide and Titanium dioxide, while chemical sunscreens absorb into the skin with chemical ingredients like Avobenzone, Octisalate, etc.
How to apply broad-spectrum sunscreen?
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, there are a few guidelines that you need to keep in mind when buying sunscreen. Along with ensuring the formula is broad spectrum, pick one that is SPF 30 or higher and water resistant. Plus, make sure to apply it before you head outside—and don’t miss those hard-to-reach spots like your neck, ears, tops of feet, and lips. You’ll need a shot glass worth of sunscreen to cover your body. Finally, don’t forget to reapply your sunscreen every two hours or immediately after swimming or sweating.