Select Page

There is a lot to enjoy about the hot summer months, but at the same, time, there is also a lot to be wary of and careful about! Probably the biggest of these potential concerns is the sun and how its powerful UV rays can cause damage to your skin and overall health if you don’t protect yourself.

Overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays is a major cause of skin cancer, an sunburn is a clear indication of overexposure.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, more than 1 out of every 3 Americans reports getting sunburned every year.

According to, 9,500+ people are diagnosed with skin cancer every day and according to the American Academy of Dermatology, one in five people will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.

This makes protecting yourself from the sun one of the most important considerations of summer healthcare.

No matter what skin type you have, whether you have sensitive skin or ‘sturdy’ skin, whether you don’t feel like you get sunburnt that often or you think that your usual skincare routine is enough to handle the risk of skin cancer, we can promise you that the sun’s rays have no sympathy for those who not wearing any kind of UV protection!

We have put together a comprehensive guide to the process of buying sunscreen. We want to ensure that you get the right sunscreen for your personal circumstances because the vast range of different types of sunscreen products available on the market right now are a clear reminder that sunscreen isn’t a case of ‘one size fits all’. Here is the best sunscreen guide that you will find online!

Let’s start with the science bit – ultraviolet light.

What Is The Difference Between UVA Rays And UVB Rays?

When buying sunscreen, you are purchasing a product to protect your skin from ultraviolet light.

The sun’s rays contain two types of UV light, UVA and UVB, that are scientifically proven to contribute to skin cancer.

UVB has the shorter wavelength of the two and is associated with sunburn.

guide to buying sunscreen

To protect your skin from UV damage, you need protective clothing (as well as hat, parasol, etc) and buying sunscreen products fit for your needs.

UVA has a longer wavelength and is associated with skin aging because these rays are able to penetrate deep into the dermis (the middle layer of your skin).

There are roughly 500 times more UVA rays than UVB rays.

To protect your skin from UV damage, you need protective clothing (as well as hat, parasol, etc) and also sunscreen products.

Sunscreen products are designated with an SPF number that enables us to make the choice of product based on the level of protection indicated by the SPF number.

Understanding SPF Numbers – What Do They Mean And What Should You Get?

SPF stands for sun protection factor. It is a legal requirement for the SPF to be stated on every bottle of sunscreen.

The Food and Drug Administration defines SPF as “a measure of how much solar energy (UV radiation) is required to produce sunburn on protected skin (i.e., in the presence of sunscreen) relative to the amount of solar energy required to produce sunburn on unprotected skin.”

In real terms, how much each factor blocks UV rays is

SPF15 – 93%

SPF30 – 97%

SPF50 – 98%

This means

SPF 15 = low protection.

SPF 15 to SPF 29 = medium protection.

SPF 30 to SPF 49 = high protection.

SPF 50 and more = very high protection.

These numbers are great but what do they mean and how do they impact on the amount of time you can spend in the sun?

Essentially, it’s a case of math! The word factor is a clue. Here’s the simple formula to remember when wearing and buying sunscreen.

You need to have an idea of how long it takes your unprotected skin to burn in the sun. Then you apply the “factor”.

So, if your skin begins to burn after 10 minutes and you apply a sunscreen of SPF 15, you multiply the time by the factor. This means you can spend 150 minutes in the sun without burning and so on.

It goes without saying that the higher SPF you use, the more protected you are going to be. Most people have a concern that using SPF 50  will somehow prevent them from tanning, but not tanning is a far more preferable outcome than getting sunburnt and suffering things like premature skin aging, hyperpigmentation (dark spots), and even skin cancer by exposing your skin to the power of the sun.

Types of Sunscreen

This isn’t about whether you choose to apply sunscreen in the form of lotion, cream, spray or a stick. Sunscreens aren‘t just different in terms of method of application but also in their formulation.

There are two types of sunscreens – chemical and physical.

  • Chemical Sunscreen

Chemical sunscreens are products that have formulas that use chemical filters to protect your skin from UV rays. There are plenty of different formulas to choose from, but the most common and most effective varieties (especially in the United States) are those that contain up to a dozen sunscreen ingredients like oxybenzone, avobenzone, octinoxate, and octisalate. All of these ingredients work like sponges to absorb the UV radiation before it is able to reach your skin and start damaging it in the form of sunburn and premature aging.

Chemical sunscreens are usually the thing that most people are referring to when they talk about sunscreen, with more than 96% of available products using chemical ingredients rather than mineral ingredients.

Chemical sunscreens have to be absorbed into the skin so to be effective they need to be applied at least 20 to 30 minutes before sun exposure. They aren’t as thick as physical sunscreens and are most often used for facial sunscreens as that demands the most protection.

guide to buying sunscreen

Chemical sunscreens have to be absorbed into the skin so to be effective they need to be applied at least 20 to 30 minutes before sun exposure.


  • Mineral Sunscreens

Rather than acting like a sponge to soak up and filter out the sun’s rays like a chemical sunscreen, mineral sunscreens instead act as a physical blocker of ultraviolet radiation. This is why they are also referred to as physical sunscreen or natural sunscreen. They only contain two ingredients – titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, and can be just as effective as their chemical counterparts.

Mineral sunscreen only accounts for about 4% of all American sunscreen sales annually. However, they are increasing in popularity as they are generally safer than pure chemical sunscreens, especially in those with sensitive skin and eczema as well as in kids.

What To Look For When Buying Sunscreen

Buying good quality sunscreen SPF isn’t as simple as picking up the first product that you like the look of on the pharmacy shelf. When you are out browsing for your next purchase, there are numerous factors to consider.

  • How high a sun protection factor do you need?
  • Is it a broad-spectrum sunscreen?
  • Is it FDA recommended?
  • Do you choose a chemical or mineral sunscreen?
  • Is it formulated for your skin type?
  • Does it offer effective water resistance?
  • Does it have other active ingredients such as antioxidants?
  • Does it offer suitable protection for your specific skin tone and/or skin conditions like acne prone skin.
  • What‘s the method of application – lotions, cream, spray, stick, powder.

These are the key FAQs but let’s take a closer look at some of the terms used to explain why they are important.

What To Look For On A Sunscreen Label

There is a lot of information on a sunscreen label/bottle so you need to understand what to look for.

  • The Term ‘Broad Spectrum’

The sun gives off both UVA and UVB rays, and both are very harmful and can play a role in developing skin problems with extended exposure. It is the UVA rays that cause skin aging, and the UVB rays that contribute to a painful sunburn. What broad spectrum on the label means is that the product in question can protect you against both types of rays.

  • SPF 30 Or Higher

As we described above, the higher the SPF number, the more protection you are getting from the sunscreen moisturizer. SPF 15 filters 93% of rays, SPF 30 filters 97%, and SPF 50 filters 98%. You will see sunscreen with SPF over 50 (60 is common and there has recently been the introduction of an SPF100) but products with an SPF higher than 30 are only marginally better at shielding you from UVB rays.

  • Water Resistance

Most of us apply sunscreen when we are going to be spending all day at the pool or the beach, and for this reason, it is important to read about the levels of water resistance that the product has. No sunscreen is allowed to claim that a single application lasts longer than two hours in the water, so in general you will find that they say either 40 minutes or 80 minutes. Please note, that there is no such thing as waterproof sunscreen so avoid any product labeled as such.

  • The Ingredients List

Looking at the ingredient list and searching for the terms mentioned above will be able to tell you whether the product in question is a chemical sunscreen or a mineral sunscreen. As we said, both options are effective.

Distilling this down to enable you to make an easy, informed choice, the AAD recommends your sunscreen should be broad-spectrum, water-resistant and of at least SPF 30.

How to Wear Sunscreen

Some simple rules:

You should wear sunscreen every day you intend to go outside regardless of whether it is sunny or cloudy.

Sunscreen should be applied every two hours when you’re in the sun or more frequently depending on the SPF factor. A shot glass worth (about 1 ounce) is a good measure. If you go into the water at the beach or pool, more frequent reapplication is necessary.

Ensure full coverage. Any area that is exposed to the sun should have sunscreen applied. People tend to neglect the scalp, ears, eyelids, feet, and neck and these can burn just as easily as any other areas of skin.

You still need sunscreen even if your makeup or face moisturizer has a designated SPF. This is because the SPF protection in these products is not broad spectrum. Also, the thin layer of makeup or moisturizer is insufficient.

Sunscreen should be the last step in your daytime skincare regime.

Recommendation For The Best Sunscreen

Now that you know exactly what you should be looking for when you’re buying sunscreen, allow us to point you in the right direction to a collection of options that we think are perfect, all-purpose products. Here is a rundown of just some of the many positives that Z Cosmetic Health Sun Defense sunscreens boast across the range.

  • Oil-free.
  • Dermatologist recommended.
  • Medical grade.
  • No irritants.
  • No fragrance.
  • Nothing to irritate and/or clog pores.
  • Protects against UVA, UVB, and Infrared rays

Our recommendation is Zadeh MD Skin Sun Defense SPF 45

guide to buying sunscreen

Zadeh MD Skin Sun Defense SPF 45 is one of the best options when buying sunscreen for maximum protection and skin barrier treatment on the market right now.

This product boasts all of the properties and benefits that we have been promoting across this entire guide. If you are looking for a high quality sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum SPF protection and is suitable for all skin types and skin tones, then this product should be your number one choice. You can rest assured that Zadeh MD Skin Sun Defense SPF 45 absolutely one of the best sunscreen options for maximum protection and skin barrier treatment on the market right now.