Sun Safety Vocabulary

by Deborah Skolnik

Sun Safety Vocabulary

Sunblock, UVA/UVB, Broad Spectrum, and more need to know terms for beach skin care

Feel like you need a Ph.D. in beachology to understand what’s printed on that bottle or tube? A quick SPF glossary:

“Broad Spectrum” or “UVA/UVB Protection” These phrases mean that the sunscreen offers protection against UVA rays as well as UVB ones. Remember, the SPF rating only measures how well the product protects against UVB rays; UVA rays are harder to measure, so sun formulas don’t carry ratings for them. But UVA rays can lead to wrinkles and other signs of aging, while they and UVB rays can cause skin cancer, so it’s important that the sunscreen you choose protects against both (many do).

“Non-Stinging” or “Tear Free” Both of these terms mean that the product won’t sting your kid’s eyes when he accidentally rubs them with lotioned-up hands.

“Waterproof” This claim means the product will stay on wet skin longer than a non-waterproof formula would. So you and your kids will be protected while you’re swimming. But you still need to reapply it generously every two hours and after swimming, toweling off (and after sweaty rounds of beach volleyball).

“Sunblock” Though the use of the word “block” isn’t regulated (no product can entirely block the sun’s rays), it typically contains titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, found in special formulas designed for infants.

“With Protective Vitamins” A phrase that means the sunscreen contains vitamin A and two different forms of vitamin E. All are anti-oxidants that can protect skin from damaging free radicals. They’re nice to have, but not necessary.

“Quick and Even Coverage” The product was specially formulated to go on smoothly and easily.

“Continuous protection” Formulated to stay effective longer than traditional products, so there is less of a drop-off in protection as the time to reapply nears.

Missed a Spot?
Don’t blow your cover: Families come to the beach wearing shirts, then take them off and forget to put SPF on their torsos. Other commonly missed areas: the tops of ears and feet; the backs of necks and hands; and the skin around the eyes, since parents are afraid of getting sunscreen in kids’ peepers (look for a formula labeled “tear free”). Finally, don’t forget to use a lip balm with SPF 45.