There are hundreds of sunscreens on the market, and Canada has yet to adopt new rules that can help clarify which ones are better than others. So what should consumers look for in a good sunscreen? Here's a few suggestions:
Broad spectrum protection: If a sunscreen label doesn't say it provides "broad spectrum" protection against UVB and UVA rays, it's not worth the money. Sunscreens must protect against both in order to help prevent skin cancer and although claims of UVA protection are not yet regulated in Canada, experts say it's still better to stick to broad spectrum.
SPF of at least 15: The "sun protection factor" in sunscreens measures how long it takes to produce a burn on protected skin relative to unprotected skin. It's complicated because time of day, a person's skin type and the amount applied can impact how well the SPF works. But in general, dermatologists recommend people choose at least SPF 15, although many argue it's better to start with SPF 30.
Waterproof and sweatproof claims: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says there is no evidence proving such sunscreen promises are true. People should be aware that sunscreens do wear off while swimming or sweating, and should reapply often to avoid skin damage.
How much to apply: One of the biggest sunscreen mistakes people make is not applying enough. The FDA says the average child or adult needs the amount it would take to fill a shot glass (one ounce, or about 30 millilitres) in order to adequately cover exposed body parts. Although some say children only need half the sunscreen adults do, pediatric organizations recommend a full ounce to protect children from damaging rays.