How to Choose Sunscreen and 5 Side Effects of Using Sunscreen

How to Choose Sunscreen and 5 Side Effects of Using Sunscreen


Choosing the right sunscreen is very important for protecting your skin from harmful UV rays, preventing sunburn, and reducing the risk of skin cancer. However, it’s also important to be aware of potential side effects that can come with using sunscreen.

How to Choose the Right Sunscreen

1. Look for Broad-Spectrum Protection

When selecting a sunscreen, always choose one that offers broad-spectrum protection. This means it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays can prematurely age your skin, causing wrinkles and age spots, while UVB rays are the main cause of sunburn. Both types of UV rays can contribute to skin cancer.

2. Check the SPF Rating

The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) rating indicates how well the sunscreen can protect your skin from UVB rays. Dermatologists generally recommend using sunscreen with at least SPF 30, which blocks about 97% of UVB rays. Higher SPFs offer slightly more protection but remember, no sunscreen can block 100% of UV rays.

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3. Consider Your Skin Type

Your skin type plays a significant role in choosing the right sunscreen. If you have sensitive skin, look for sunscreens labeled as “hypoallergenic” or “for sensitive skin.” These products usually contain fewer irritating ingredients. For oily or acne-prone skin, opt for oil-free or non-comedogenic sunscreens, which won’t clog pores. For dry skin, consider sunscreens with added moisturizers.

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4. Choose Between Physical and Chemical Sunscreens

Sunscreens are broadly categorized into physical (mineral) and chemical types. Physical sunscreens contain active mineral ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which sit on the skin’s surface and reflect UV rays. They are less likely to irritate sensitive skin.


Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, contain organic compounds like oxybenzone or avobenzone that absorb UV radiation. They tend to be lighter and more easily absorbed but can sometimes irritate.

5. Water Resistance

If you plan on swimming or sweating, choose a water-resistant sunscreen. Water-resistant sunscreens maintain their SPF protection for a specified period (usually 40 or 80 minutes) while you are in the water. However, no sunscreen is completely waterproof, so it’s essential to reapply regularly, especially after swimming or sweating.

Five Side Effects of Using Sunscreen You Should Be Aware Of

While sunscreens are essential for skin protection, they can sometimes cause side effects. Here are five potential issues to be aware of:

1. Allergic Reactions

Some people may experience allergic reactions to certain ingredients in sunscreen, such as fragrances, preservatives, or chemical filters like oxybenzone. Symptoms of an allergic reaction can include redness, itching, swelling, and rash. To minimize the risk, perform a patch test before using a new sunscreen. Apply a small amount to a small area of your skin and wait 24 hours to see if any reaction occurs.

2. Acne and Skin Irritation

Certain sunscreens, especially those that are greasy or heavy, can clog pores and lead to breakouts, particularly in people with oily or acne-prone skin. To avoid this, choose non-comedogenic and oil-free formulas. Additionally, some ingredients in chemical sunscreens can cause skin irritation, leading to redness and discomfort. If you have sensitive skin, consider using a physical sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, as these are less likely to irritate.

3. Eye Irritation

Getting sunscreen in your eyes can cause significant discomfort, including stinging, watering, and redness. To prevent this, be cautious when applying sunscreen to your face, particularly around the eye area. If you do get sunscreen in your eyes, rinse them thoroughly with water. Choose a sunscreen that is less likely to run or migrate into your eyes, especially if you plan to sweat or swim.

4. Hormonal Disruption

Some chemical sunscreens contain ingredients like oxybenzone and octinoxate, which have been shown to act as endocrine disruptors in certain studies. These substances can mimic or interfere with the body’s hormones, potentially leading to health issues. While the levels of these chemicals in sunscreens are generally considered safe for most people, those concerned about hormone disruption might prefer to use physical sunscreens or those formulated without these ingredients.

5. Environmental Impact

Certain sunscreen ingredients, particularly oxybenzone and octinoxate, have been found to harm coral reefs and marine life. These chemicals contribute to coral bleaching and damage aquatic ecosystems. If you are environmentally conscious, look for sunscreens labeled as “reef-safe” or “ocean-friendly,” which do not contain harmful chemicals. Physical sunscreens with non-nano zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are often considered safer for the environment.

To choose the right sunscreen, consider these factors: broad-spectrum protection, SPF rating, skin type, and preference for physical or chemical sunscreens. Sunscreens protect your skin from UV damage but can have side effects like allergic reactions, skin or eye irritation, hormonal issues, and environmental harm. By picking the right sunscreen and using it properly, you can enjoy the sun safely while reducing health and environmental risks.