A Quick Sunscreen Guide

Summer is here and that equals lots of fun in the sun! When you are preparing for a day at the park or beach, which sunscreen will you choose? To help you make a decision, let’s learn more about the different types of sunscreen and how exactly they work.

UV Radiation and the development of Sunscreens

The sun produces ultraviolet (UV) radiation that is a major factor in the development of photo-ageing, melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers. There are 3 main types of UV radiation produced by the sun: UVA, UVB and UVC. We don’t need to worry much about UVC because the earth’s atmosphere does a great job at filtering it. But the UVA and UVB rays are still a worry. Early sunscreens only worked to block out UVB rays. But this meant that UVA radiation could still reach our skin and these rays are actually responsible for photo-aging and cell damage. As a result, broad-spectrum sunscreens have been developed since the 1990’s to try and block the harmful effects of both UVA and UVB and since then, we haven’t looked back.

Ingredients in Sunscreens

The ingredients in sunscreen can be classified as either organic or inorganic filters. Organic filters are the “chemical” compounds such as octinoxate, salicylates or benzophones. Inorganic filters are “physical” compounds that reflect or scatter the UV radiation. Inorganic filters include zinc and titanium based products.

So, What I should look out for?

When buying sunscreen, make sure you find a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks against both UVA and UVB rays. A sweat and water resistance based formula is great if you are going to be at the beach, or are exercising outdoors. You should make sure that the sunscreen you use has a high SPF, good ease of application (dependant on your personal preference) and low risk of allergy for sensitive, or younger skins.


Wendy Allen is the RubyFit blogger. She has a Bachelor of Sport and Exercise from the University of Technology and Master of Pharmacy from the University of Sydney


All information extracted from: McSweeney, Penelope C. The safety of nanoparticles in sunscreens: An update for general practice [online]. Australian Family Physician, Vol. 45, No. 6, Jun 2016: 397-399.

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