What Do Sunscreen Ratings Mean?

Product ratings can be confusing and when it comes to sunscreen, it’s not always obvious which one is the best choice. Protecting your skin from sun damage is very important. In a recent radio interview, Dr. Johnson explained what sunscreen ratings mean and what you can do to protect your skin.

Here’s a full transcript of the interview:

HOST:There’s a lot of questions regarding sunscreens. A lot of men beg off the sunscreen in your findings?

DR. BILL: I’m not sure men do it any worse than women. A lot of folks don’t do sunscreen. They don’t like to bother, don’t like the smell. They think it looks good to have a tan. Many reasons.

HOST: Back in what? 2012, there were some new regulations involving the labeling of sunscreen, Dr. Johnson, to help people that aren’t using sunscreen choose the right product for them. Can you go through kind of what are good products to use?

DR. BILL: The big change that was made in 2012 was the FDA stated that no sunscreen can be rated at higher than SPF – which stands for Sun Protection Factor – 50. And the reason for that is that is supposed to mean that, if I am in the sun for one hour, SPF 50 would give me the same amount of skin damage or skin injury in 50 hours in one hour if I had nothing on. So, that’s what the number on the sunscreen means. But none of them can actually give more than 50 hours. You have to re-apply them. That is trying to give you an idea of how much protection is there. Some have a lot of the protective ingredients like Avobenzone and many other exotic drugs. But the idea is how much of that is related to the number.

So, the good ones have a number of 30 or better because that gives you really good protection. But even those need to be re-applied over a few hours because they’re used.

HOST: Talk a little bit about what we used to see as waterproof, you know, sweat-proof kind of sunscreen. Apparently, that’s not the case, huh?

DR. BILL: Some are more water-resistant than others, then some are less so. And, again, that’s another thing the FDA wanted to avoid was people thinking that, “If I have a sunscreen on that says waterproof, I can get in and out of water all day long and I’m safe,” because even the waterproof ones need to be re-applied every couple of hours if you’re in and out of water. But, the more waterproof ones tend to be more oily because it’s the oil that allows them to be water-resistant where the less water-resistant ones are water-based and typically easier and more pleasant to put on, but they’ll sweat off and wipe off and have to be re-applied more frequently.

HOST: To your point, Dr. Johnson, about the odor or fragrance of the sunscreens and how they feel on your skin, you can go through and you can look at all these lists of recommended products but what everybody needs to just think about is finding a product that they like to use so that they will use it.

DR. BILL: They will use it. That really is the key. Whether it is something that is a real high SPF or something that is more water-resistant, what you really want is something that you will put on regularly. It doesn’t matter if it’s a spray-on or a lotion. The main key is to have something that you’ll use. That’s correct.

HOST: So, what are your favorites? Do you have any particular brand that you prefer?

DR. BILL: I have a real preference, personally, for sunscreens that contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide as the blocker, or at least as one of the blockers, and the reason for those is they’re not used up when they are in the sun. All of the other sunblocks, while they are very effective, when they absorb light, they are destroyed by the light and give less and less protection over time. So, when you’re looking at the label, I have a preference to having some titanium dioxide in the mixture because that means I’m never without some protection while I’m outside.

HOST: I am such a label-reader, Dr. Johnson. I really appreciate you pointing out those active ingredients because I think that’s really important.

Let’s talk for just a minute about some other products. What about the sunscreen clothing?

DR. BILL: The sunscreen clothing tends to be pretty effective and I think that especially when they’re new. Now, some studies have shown with multiple washings – not just a few, not a dozen or so, but – if you start getting over fifty to a hundred washings, they become less effective. But, in general, they’re a really good idea when it’s not just too crushingly hot to wear them.

HOST: Dr. Johnson, we do appreciate your time and thanks for being on with us this morning.

DR. BILL:Thank you.

Have questions?

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Dr. Bill Johnson MD, MMM Innovations Medical
Contact us with any questions or call our Dallas office at 214-643-8665.