06/11/2014 08:46 pm ET Updated Aug 11, 2014

How to Choose Sunscreen: Part 2

Baby Boomers come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, constitutions, muscularity, complexions, skin tones and levels of hardiness.

Some of you do well in the sun and may even flourish in it.

Others can be strongly affected by the UV rays after only a short stay outside.

Yesterday, we talked a little about "why baby boomers need sunscreen" to block the UVA and UVB rays and the basics of SPF's in choosing sunscreens.

The bottom line is that selecting the proper sunscreen can be a chore.

Before diving into the sea of choices, let me make it completely clear that everyone needs some sort of protection when spending time in the sun.

No one is immune to the effects of extended exposure.

Are some sunscreens better than others?

That goes without saying.

Like any other consumer good offered on the open market, there will be knock-offs that look good but are actually weak imitations of the products they are trying to imitate on the shelf.

And on the flip side, there will be high priced, flashy products lush with sexy moisturizing and youth enhancing promises that perform worse than generic substitutes.

There are both good and bad ingredients used in the formulations of different sunscreens.

There are also good and bad properties to watch out for as well when choosing which sunscreen is right for you.

So let's begin with what the experts recommend.

Dermatologists strongly recommend that everyone (no matter what skin type) who spends any time outside, no matter where they live, use a sunscreen with at least and SPF 15 or greater year-round.

If you are outside, you are always in the sun right?

If you are fair skinned you should consider boosting your choice to an SPF of 30 year round.

Everyone else should consider using SPF 30 as well in the summer months.

As a reminder, products with a 30 SPF will block 97 percent of the sun's harmful rays.

You can choose to use higher SPF products if they make you feel better but remember that products with higher SPF ratings will only block slightly more of the sun's rays.

If used diligently and according to manufacturer's instructions, products with a 30 SPF rating are probably the most effective overall from a cost standpoint.

If you are unsure, my advice is simple: Don't take any chances.

So, what else do dermatologists say to look for in your sunscreen products?

Most sunscreens come in one of five forms: cream, lotion, oil, gel or spray.

What you use is really a matter of choice as long as the SPF is sufficient but keep in mind that, in general, most oils and especially sprays do not contain sufficient amounts of UV protection like the lotions and creams do.

In most cases, the creams will offer the best protection because they not only have ingredients in them that offer higher SPF levels but they are thicker and thus afford a good degree of opacity to block ultraviolet rays as well.

Look for products that contain one or more of the following ingredients to get "broad spectrum" protection against both UVA and UVB rays:

• zinc oxide
• titanium dioxide
• avobenzone
• mexoryl

Some of us baby boomers grew up with sunscreens that contained first generation PABA or para-aminobenzoic acids.

While PABA is still considered an effective UVB protector, research has found that some people's skin is sensitive to PABA and it also can cause staining of clothing.

Today, through the miracles of modern technology, there are refined PABA ingredients in sunscreens that protect against UVB radiation.

Beside PABA, some other effective UVB "absorbers" to look for in the ingredients lists are salicylates and cinnamates.

Regardless of the composition of the sunscreen you plan to use, note that all sunscreens need to be reapplied generously during your stay in the sun.

Creams and lotions will last the longest but they are thicker and stickier but folks generally find them annoying to apply.

So what, they work best.

Slather them on and let people know you are smart.

The spray, oil and gel sunscreens tend to wear off in the water or sweat off and should be reapplied more frequently.

As a rule of thumb, expensive sunscreens are not necessarily the best.

How much should you use?

A good rule of thumb is to apply a "shot glass" full every two hours depending on your activity level.

And don't think you can get away with not using sunscreen on cloudy days.

Wrongo !

Cloudy skies offer very little protection from the sun.

Up to 80 percent of the sun's UV rays pass through clouds and fog.

I'm sure it goes without saying (but I will anyway) that you should be extra careful when you are in the water or on snow.

These will magnify the effects of the sun's harming effects.

Men, especially those who are getting thin on top, should always wear a hat outside.

There is nothing to benefit from broiling your bean.

Start a new fashion trend like Walter White or Justin Bieber (OK, bad examples) by wearing a signature topper.

It's not a bad idea to wear loose fitting clothes that cover and use an umbrella for shade where you can.

So, are there some harmful or dangerous ingredients to look out for when shopping for sunscreen?

Yes and here is a list of ingredients to look for.

These chemicals are designed to reflect and/or absorb UV rays, reduce the effects of aging, speed absorption or improve product performance.

In most cases, they cause more harm that offsets any benefit they are designed for.

Some are absorbed rapidly and accumulate in our systems faster than we can get rid of them.

They can reach toxic levels, disrupt hormone levels, damage skin cells and cause mutations and even cancers.

Some accentuate the aging process by absorbing even greater levels of UV rays producing dangerous free radicals that damage skin.

They are all generally toxic to the environment.

  • Homosalate
  • Octocrylene
  • Paraben Preservatives
  • Octinoxate Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A Palmitate)
  • Oxybenzone

If you want to read more about these particular products check out the Skin Cancer Foundation website at

So, when it's all said and done what are the top sunscreen products to be looking for to prepare for your summer adventures?

Here's a sneak peak at next month's Consumer Reports findings on top performing sunscreen products.


  1. "Coppertone Water Babies" with SPF 50 is judged the best performing lotion overall.
  2. Walmart came in second with their generic "Equate Ultra Protection" also with SPF 50.
  3. Neutrogena "Ultimate Sport" with SPF 70-plus was also rated highly.


  1. "BullFrog WaterArmor Sport InstaCool." is considered the top performing spray. It also has a SPF 50 rating.
  2. The Target generic spray brand "Up & Up Sport" with SPF 50 was second..
  3. "Banana Boat Ultra Defense Max Skin Protectant" with SPF 110 is rated as a high performance spray.

So, baby Boomers, if your plan this summer is to be found "Dancin in the Street" along with Martha Reeves then make sure to stay covered up the best you can and wear lots of good sunscreen in places that are exposed to the sun.

I know it's easy to get overwhelmed by all of the sunscreen options on store shelves.

Here's a quick guide to help you through.

  • SPF 30 GOOD
  • Broad Spectrum UVA and UVB Protection GOOD
  • Heavy Creams and Lotions GOOD
  • Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide GOOD
  • Apply Shot glass Full Every 2 Hours GOOD
  • Wearing Speedos and Bikinis with no sun protection BAD !!!

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It's easy to tell them about it.

Forward it on to them or just email them my blog link at

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The more Baby Boomers we can help, the better place we make this world !!!

Thanks for joining me.