06/10/2014 05:37 pm ET Updated Aug 10, 2014

How to Choose Sunscreen

Baby Boomers -- do you remember the song "Dancing in the Street" by Martha and the Vandellas?

Sure you do.

"Callin' out around the world, are you ready for a brand new beat?
Summer's here and the time is right for dancin' in the street.

Oh it doesn't matter what you wear, just as long as you are there"

It's a great song but I beg of you don't listen to what the words are telling you.

Yes, it's summertime but if you are going to be out in the street dancing then please take some precautions.

Wear some sunscreen people... and clothes!

Especially at our age.

If you have avoided any skin issues up until this point then count yourself lucky.

Did you know that sunlight is considered one of the biggest culprits found on the FDA's list of worst carcinogens?

That's right; our best source for vitamin D is a real party killer if we aren't careful.

If you are anything like me, you don't think you need any protection from the sun unless you will be outside for prolonged periods of time at the beach, park or swimming pool.

Then you just slap on some sunscreen (when you think about it) before heading out and figure you are safe for the day.

After 50 years of running around this big rock that is circling the huge fireball we call the sun, I have found out that I know very little about skin care.

I especially know way too little about the proper sunscreens to be using to protect myself and my darling grandchildren.

That ends today.

First, let's talk about sunburn and how that occurs.

The sun is a tricky character.

Picture this: You walk out in the middle of the street (look both ways please before you start dancin') raise your arms and bask in the glorious and soothing heat.

It feels so wonderful baking your old bones.

You first think that it's the bright fire of the sun that is soaking into your body and feels so good.

Wrong, that's just visible light.

What is doing the "baby boomer bake" on your skin is the UVA and UVB or ultraviolet rays emitted by the sun.

You can't see them with the naked eye and that is what makes them so dangerous.

That's why you get sunburned so easy.

So, what's the difference between the UVA and UVB rays?

Is one a little bit smarter than the other?

No, not really.

The basic difference is how deep the rays can penetrate the layers of your skin and how much damage they can do to your skin cell structures.

UVA rays are always present, rain or shine, summer and winter no matter what the climate, season or weather.

They are the powerful rays that can penetrate deeply through your clothes and many layers of skin.

They react with individual cells to alter them causing premature aging, old age spots and that wonderfully sexy brown leather skin look you find on aging socialites that have retired on famous made-for-TV beaches in the Mediterranean.

UVB rays, on the other hand, are not as muscular as the UVA rays but their shorter waves are the main culprit when it comes to causing sunburn and skin cancers.

They only affect the upper layers of the skin "burning" cells and causing your skin to turn painfully red.

Both types of ultraviolet rays are bad for you in excess and you should always use protection that is formulated to protect you against the combination.

Second, let's talk about what SPF means.

If you find yourself staring at the shelves in the skin care aisle of Walgreen's in wonderment at all of the different and varied battles, cans and tubes of sun protection options you are not alone.

SPF stands for "Sun Protection Factor" and the hundreds of different bottles on the shelves can range from a factor of two all the way up to 100.

The SPF is a government developed and sanctioned rating of a products ability to screen or block the harmful UVA and UVB rays from penetrating your precious skin.

On the surface, this means that if you are wearing a sunscreen product with an SPF of 30 that means you can stay out in the sunlight 30 times longer than if you were not wearing any sunscreen at all.

Unfortunately, this SPF rating sounds kind of arbitrary doesn't it?

Well, you are absolutely right.

Not all sunscreens with the same SPF are created or perform the same way.

In fact, next month Consumer Reports will be publishing a report on sunscreen performance specifically targeting whether or not products protect your skin to the proscribed level found on the labels.

They found that over 10 percent of the brands tested were overly aggressive in their SPF ratings.

There are a couple of very important facts that baby boomers need to understand when it comes to wearing sunscreen.

1. SPF protection does not improve proportionally as the rating increases on the label. For example, a product with an SPF of 30 does not give twice the protection as a product with an SPF of 15.

2. There is a law of diminishing returns when it comes to SPF protection. Basically you get most of your protection from the UVA and UVB rays with a 30 SPF sunscreen product.

Here's the skinny:

A minimal sunscreen with a SPF of 2 will block around 50 percent of the sun's UV rays.

A good sunscreen with a SPF rating of 15 will block up to 93 percent and a better sunscreen with an SPF of 30 will block up to 97 percent.

There is no sunscreen yet that can block all 100 percent of the sun's ultraviolet rays.

I know that selecting the proper sunscreen can be difficult.

Check back tomorrow for some tips that may help you in making your selections easier.

I'll answer a few questions about the good and bad chemicals found in some sunscreens.

I will also post the Consumer Reports top performing products.

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

Thanks for joining me.