People Still Confused by Sunblock Labels, Study Shows

Most people know they should be applying suncreen before heading out on a hot, sunny summer day. But a new study shows that many people still don’t know what to look for in a sunblock product, and it’s a fact that may be leaving some unnecessarily exposed to dangerous ultraviolet light.

The study, which was carried out by researchers at Chicago’s Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, was relatively small, involving just 114 participants. It found that less than half the people involved were correct in identifying how a selection of sunscreen products protected them against sunburn, premature aging of the skin (known as photoaging), and skin cancer by examining each product’s label.

For example, only 49-percent of the participants knew what “SPF” (sun protection factor) stood for. The study also revealed that few participants knew to look for a sunscreen labeled “broad spectrum”. This means the product can protect against all types of ultraviolet light and help to prevent many different types of sun-related skin issues.

Although the study was small, it supports similar observations made by other doctors, including Dr. Jennifer Stein, a New York City-based dermatologist. “At least half of the patients I see…especially this time of year…ask me questions about sunscreen,” Stein said. “Very frequently, people are confused about the different kinds of protection they can get from sunscreen. And everybody wants to know what to look for.”

Experts say that, to find the best sunblock, choose something with an SPF rating over 30. That will block 97-percent of ultraviolet rays, while a product with an SPF rating of 50 will block 98-percent of UV rays.


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