2 Your Health Understanding Sunscreen Labels

Most of us know what sunscreen is and what it’s supposed to do, right? Maybe not.
A new study finds the majority of consumers don’t understand the information provided on a sunscreen label.

Northwestern University Researchers surveyed 114 patients at a dermatology clinic to determine what they knew and understood about sunscreen.

RELATED: Sunscreen facts you need to know

They were asked about the information on the label of a bottle of sunscreen including the definition of SPF, whether it protects against early aging, and based on what the consumer understood, how well the sunscreen protects against skin cancer.

Results show that only 43 percent of those surveyed understood the definition of sun protection factor (SPF).

“UV-B causes sunburn, while UV-A causes aging of the skin,” says Melissa Piliang, MD, a dermatologist at Cleveland Clinic. “Both UV-B and UV-A cause skin cancer.”

While most of the people surveyed correctly identified higher SPF values as being directly correlated with increased protection against sunburn and skin cancer, only 29 percent understood that it doesn’t necessarily provide better protection against aging.

A broad spectrum sunscreen will protect against both UV-A and UV-B rays, Dr. Piliang says.

Researchers say some changes may be in store for sunscreen labels to help us better understand the information.

How do you know which sunscreen is best? Dr. Piliang says consumers should make sure their sunscreen is:

1. SPF 30 or 50
2. Broad spectrum
3. Water-resistant or water-proof

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