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Common sunscreen questions answered

A summer of post-pandemic events and vacations means protecting your skin from the sun's harmful UV rays is more important than ever.
Credit: paultarasenko - stock.adobe.com
Woman applying sunscreen on her shoulder

After more than a year of pandemic restrictions, people are enjoying a summer outside filled with family, local events and long-awaited vacations.

But all that fun in the sun means protecting your skin from harmful UV rays. 

News 8 has compiled a list of answers on some common sunscreen questions:

Does sunscreen expire?

Yes, sunscreen does expire. The FDA requires all sunscreens to have an expiration date. If no label is printed on the bottle, the sunscreen should be considered expired three years after purchase. 

When should I apply my sunscreen?

The FDA recommends applying sunscreen 15 minutes before heading outside to receive maximum benefit. It should be re-applied every two hours, and more frequently if you're swimming or sweating.

Even if it's cloudy out, sunscreen should still be applied since sun damage is still possible.

What is broad spectrum sunscreen?

The sun produces two kinds of UV rays. According to the Cleveland Clinic, UVB rays are responsible for sunburn and skin cancer and UVA rays cause wrinkles and other signs of aging. 

SPF only indicates a sunscreen's UVB protection, but sunscreens that provide "broad spectrum" protect against both UVB and UVA rays.

What does SPF really mean?

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. The higher the SPF, the higher the protection. 

A common misconception about SPF is that the number relates to the amount of time you're in the sun. According to the FDA, SPF is not directly related to time of solar exposure but to amount of solar exposure. 

Do you need sunscreen if your makeup has SPF?

Doctors caution that most makeup with SPF lacks adequate protection against UV rays, meaning it may be best to apply extra sunscreen before putting on your makeup.

Can sunscreen be waterproof?

The FDA asserts that there is no such this as waterproof sunscreen. Sunscreens can, however, be "water-resistant." Any sunscreen with a "water-resistant" label should state whether it's effective for 40 minutes or 80 minutes when swimming or sweating.

Can you tan with sunscreen on?

Sort of, and it can depend on what sunscreen your using. Like mentioned above, UVA rays are responsible for signs of aging. But they're also responsible for forming a tan. That mean's if you're using a sunscreen that isn't broad spectrum, you can still get a tan.

Will you get enough Vitamin D when wearing sunscreen?

Yes. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, clinical studies have never found that sunscreen use leads to insufficient vitamin D levels.