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Sunscreen Safety: What to Know

Sunscreen ingredients, labels, and more.

What's on the Label? continued...

Broad-Spectrum Protection: By the end of 2012, that phrase will be reserved for products offering UVA and UVB protection. Not all sunscreens have broad-spectrum protection.

UVA rays cause tanning, wrinkles, and other signs of premature aging and contribute to skin cancer. We are exposed to them all day, every day, because they get through clouds and windows. This is why we should use sunscreen every day whether or not we plan to go outdoors.

UVB rays cause sunburns and contribute to skin cancer. They are most intense in the spring and summer months from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at high altitudes, and on reflective surfaces such as snow or ice.

Spray Sunscreens

The FDA is studying the safety of spray sunscreens. For now, Lim notes, it's important to spray several coats and rub it in to ensure complete coverage. "With fine droplets, there can be a lot of missed areas, so it has to be sprayed several times," he says.

Also, don't spray it on your face. We don't yet know the effects of inhaling sunscreen sprays, Lim says. Labels on these products warn not to inhale the spray or spray it on your face. Instead, spray it in your hands and rub it on your face.

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