How to be sure you're choosing the right sunscreen for your skin

The summer is in full swing, which means the days are longer and the sun is stronger. While you should be wearing sunscreen year round, it is even more important to make sure you wear it in the summer.

While choosing which sunscreen to buy, always be sure to read the labels. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that everyone should wear sunscreen that offers the following three things:

Broad spectrum protection, which protects the skin from both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays can prematurely age your skin, causing wrinkles and age spots. UVB rays are the main cause of sunburn. Overexposure to either of these rays can lead to skin cancer. While all sunscreens protect against UVB rays, only products that pass a "broad spectrum" test protect against both.

A sun protection factor (SPF) 30 or higher. While SPF 15 is the FDA's minimum recommendation for protection against skin cancer and sunburn, dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen with SPF of at least 30. It is important to note the high SPF numbers does not necessarily mean more protection, but the higher your go, the smaller the difference becomes. For example, SPF 15 sunscreens filter out about 93% of UVB rays, while SPF 30 filters out about 97%, SPF 50 about 98%, and SPF 100 about 99%. No sunscreen protects your skin completely, and it is important to remember that no matter the SPF number, all sunscreens last about the same amount of time, making it important to reapply.

Lastly, make sure your sunscreen is water resistant. However, do not confuse this with being waterproof. No sunscreens are waterproof or "sweatproof," and manufacturers are not allowed to claim that they are. If a product claims to be water resistant, the label must indicate whether it lasts for 40 or 80 minutes while swimming or sweating.

You should always make sure to apply sunscreen if you plan to be outside. Even on cloudy days, UV rays can still harm your skin. It is also important to remember to reapply your sunscreen every 2 hours, and even more often if you are swimming or sweating.

Sometimes using sunscreen just isn't enough to protect your skin from the sun's rays. In addition, you should practice other forms of sun-safety:

Seek shade when needed, remembering that the sun's rays are strongest between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Cover up and wear protective clothing, such as wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses, when possible.

Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps that cause wrinkling and can contribute to long-term skin damage and skin cancer.

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