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Choosing the Best Sunscreen

I love summer! I feel especially motivated to work out because I love being outdoors when it’s warm. I get excited to spend as much time outside as possible.

But, for those of us who do a lot of our workouts outdoors during the summer (and even during other seasons), avoiding over exposure to the sun is important. Finding the right sunscreen is essential. Choosing the right one can be more complicated that you’d think. You will find sun tan lotions, sunscreens, sunblocks and sunless tanners everywhere you look. Each are different. Here is a breakdown of each:

Sunblock

Sunblocks are products that actually block sunlight by reflecting or repelling it. True sunblocks are the only products that literally block the sun from your skin. These products contain ingredients such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide which physically repel sunlight. These materials – which are usually opaque – are typically referred to as mineral or physical blocks. Sunscreens (discussed below) contain absorptive materials, usually referred to as chemical blocks.

Sunscreen

Sunscreens are different from sunblocks. They contain ingredients that protect your skin from UVA rays, UVB rays or both. Most sunscreens contain an organic chemical compound that absorbs ultraviolet light (such as oxybenzone). Some sunscreens contain both physical blocks and chemical blocks. Sunscreens are available in different levels of SPF (Sun Protection Factor). They typically range anywhere from SFP 4 to SFP 60. A higher SPF means better sun protection. The SPF for each sunscreen equals the number of hours of protected sun exposure that would equal one regular hour of unprotected sun exposure. For instance, applying SPF 15 would mean that you would get the same level of sun exposure in 15 hours that you would get in one hour with no sunscreen on. Keep in mind that during those 15 hours you would need to have on sunscreen continuously. Sunscreens and sunblocks alike need to be reapplied to be effective. They should be reapplied to exposed areas of skin every couple of hours and after excessive sweating, swimming or using a towel.

The best sunscreens protect against both UVB (ultraviolet radiation with wavelength between 290 and 320 nanometres), which can cause sunburn, and UVA (between 320 and 400 nanometres), which damages the skin with more long-term effects, such as premature skin aging.

Suntan Lotion

Suntan Lotion is mainly used as a moisturizer and is usually applied to maximize UV exposure, not block it. Suntan lotions often do not contain any level of sun protection at all. Suntan lotions include everything from SPF 4 lotions, to indoor tanning lotions, to outdoor suntan oils.

Sunless Tanners

Sunless tanners are rapidly gaining popularity. They give anyone a sunkissed glow or suntan without the sun damage. These tanners are a safe alternative to overexposure to the sun. High quality sunless tanners are being developed all the time and there are many that give you a completely natural looking suntan.

Sunblocks, sunscreens, suntan lotions and sunless tanners are each available in lotions, creams, sprays and other formulas. Choose the best sun protection possible so that you avoid sunburn and excessive tanning. Protect your skin and invest in your long term health so that you can enjoy outdoor workouts for years to come.

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