Memorial Day, the unofficial start to summer, is just around the corner. Which means it’s time to figure out: Which sunscreen is best?


In addition to the SPF level, new labels must include whether the sunscreen protects against both types of ultraviolet (UV) rays, UVA and UVB.

The best sunscreen depends largely on the SPF, or sun protection factor, which is how well it protects against the sun’s burning rays. This summer, you’ll also see new labels required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that include other vital information. So what do you need to know about these new labels?

In addition to the SPF level, the new labels must also include whether the sunscreen protects against both types of ultraviolet (UV) rays, UVA and UVB. UVB rays cause most sunburns. UVA rays pose a greater risk for skin cancer and wrinkles. Dr. Lawrence Green, dermatologist at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center, recommends using sunscreens that protect against both types of rays. These sunscreens will be labeled “broad spectrum,” along with the SPF number.

You will also no longer see “waterproof” listed on bottles. The FDA now calls for the term “water resistant” paired with either 40 or 80 minutes, which is how long the sunscreen will protect skin in water before it needs to be reapplied.

Dr. Green also shares the following tips regarding sunscreen and sun safety:

  • Use sunscreen labeled broad spectrum protection and SPF 30 or higher. Please note that SPF 100 does not mean it’s twice as effective as SPF 50.
  • For each application, use at least one ounce of sunscreen on your body. Applying too little sunscreen means it won’t work as well as it’s supposed to.
  • Regardless of SPF level, reapply sunscreen every few hours, unless you are in the water or sweating a lot. In that case, reapply every 40 to 80 minutes, based on what it says on the label.
  • Avoid direct sunlight between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when UV rays are strongest.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat for an extra layer of protection, as well as sunglasses with UV protection for your eyes.

Dr. Green also says clothing is preferred to sunscreen if possible to protect your skin.

To hear more about the new labels, listen to Dr. Green’s recent interview with WTOP Radio.