Your Sunscreen Buying Guide

It’s time to plan your summer fun-and your summer sun protection. Don’t forget that experts recommend replacing your sunscreen every year, since it can lose effectiveness quickly, especially when they spend time in the hot sun. Use these basics to simplify your next sun care shopping trip at Pharmaca.

Mineral vs. chemical

Where chemical sunscreens absorb the sun’s rays before they can cause damage, “physical” sunscreens actually block and deflect rays. And since physical sunscreens sit on top of the surface of the skin, they’re also much less likely to irritate sensitive skin or cause allergic reactions. Look for one with a good zinc content, which can help heal the skin while it protects.

What are SPFs, anyway?

Sunscreen manufacturers test their products’ sun protection factor by slathering it on volunteers and then blasting them with UV rays until a burn appears. They then calculate the time it takes to create the burn on the protected skin and divide it by the time it takes to burn unprotected skin. The result is an approximation of the amount of time you can spend in the sun wearing a specified SPF until you burn.

UVA vs. UVB protection

UVA and UVB rays are the two types of ultraviolet radiation that our skin has to contend with. UVA rays are the longer of the two, and can penetrate deeper into the skin and cause more lasting (read: aging) damage. UVB rays are shorter and tend to burn the skin’s more superficial layers. Because neither outcome is desirable, it’s important to find a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both. 

Did you know?


Certain medications can make you more sun sensitive.
Many classes of drugs-including common anti-depressants, hormones, antibiotics, statins and more-can increase your chances of photosensitivity (or even long-term cellular damage). Talk to a pharmacist about whether one of your medications might put you at greater risk.

Most people use only a fraction of the amount of sunscreen needed to get the true SPF protection on the label
. According to the Mayo Clinic, the average adult should use about 1 oz of sunscreen on the body, about the size of a shotglass, making sure you use at least a teaspoon on your face. Reapply every two hours, or after exposure to water.

Tanning just doesn’t make sense.
A tan results from injury to the skin’s DNA, as the skin darkens in an imperfect attempt to prevent further DNA damage. And the sunlamps used in tanning salons emit doses of UVA as much as 12 times that of the sun.

Talk to a Pharmaca practitioner about finding the right sunscreen for your skin type and activities, and check out our brand new sun care options.