Sun Safety 101: How to Choose the Best Sunscreen

applying sun protection


With summer right around the corner, more time in the sun is on the horizon. While enjoying the outdoors is a wonderful way to spend the season, it's crucial to be aware of the increased UV intensity during these months. UV rays can cause sunburn, premature skin aging, and even skin cancer. We spoke with Dr. Silva, who sees patients at Bastyr University Clinic, to get her expert advice on sun protection and choosing the right sunscreen.

What To Look for in a Sunscreen

Selecting the right sunscreen is essential for effective sun protection and maintaining overall skin health. Here’s what Dr. Silva recommends:

1. Broad-Spectrum Protection

Dr. Silva emphasizes the importance of broad-spectrum protection. "Broad-spectrum sunscreens guard against both UVA and UVB rays, which are responsible for skin aging and burning, respectively," she explains. She recommends a minimum SPF of 30 for adequate protection. For extended outdoor activities, a higher SPF can provide additional assurance.

2. Safer Ingredients

Ingredients play a critical role in the effectiveness and safety of sunscreens. Dr. Silva prefers mineral-based sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. "These physical blockers sit on the skin’s surface and reflect UV rays, making them less likely to cause irritation compared to chemical filters," she notes. This is particularly beneficial for children and individuals with eczema, as mineral sunscreens are generally gentler.

3. Fragrance-free and Hypoallergenic

Choosing a sunscreen that is fragrance-free and hypoallergenic is also important. "Fragrances and certain preservatives can be irritating, especially for sensitive skin or those with eczema," Dr. Silva advises. Look for formulations labeled as safe for sensitive skin or pediatric use, as these are typically free of potential allergens and irritants.

4. Water Resistance

Water resistance is a valuable feature, particularly for active children or those who spend a lot of time in the water. A water-resistant sunscreen ensures continued protection during swimming or sweating. However, Dr. Silva reminds us to reapply as directed, usually every 40 to 80 minutes, to maintain effectiveness.

5. Suitable Texture and Application

The texture and ease of application are also important considerations. "A lotion or cream can be more hydrating for dry or eczema-prone skin, whereas sprays might be convenient but require careful application to ensure thorough coverage," Dr. Silva suggests.


When choosing a sunscreen, Dr. Silva advises looking for broad-spectrum protection, a minimum SPF of 30, mineral-based ingredients, fragrance-free and hypoallergenic formulations, water resistance, and a suitable texture. By considering these factors, you can ensure effective sun protection and skin safety for everyone, especially children and those with sensitive or eczema-prone skin.

Stay safe and enjoy your summer with the right sun protection!