Summer Sunscreen Guide

June 16, 2023
| Created by Harmons

This blog was written by Harmons pharmacy intern, Hagan Huynh, Pharm.D. candidate, 2023.

As summer approaches, we are all very excited to get back out in the sun. Whether you are camping, hiking, or going to the beach, it is essential to wear the proper sunscreen to protect your skin. This is a short guide to all things related to sunscreen and how to protect your skin this summer.

Why Use Sunscreen?

Sunscreen is not only important for preventing sunburns but is also essential for preventing skin cancer. The sun emits harmful rays called UV rays—UVA rays can cause damage deep into the skin and even result in skin cancer, while UVB rays cause redness and sunburns. It is important to make sure that your sunscreen is labeled “broad spectrum” and protects against both UVB and UVA rays.


SPF, short for Sun Protection Factor, is the level of protection from UV rays in a product. For outdoor activities, it is important to choose a sunscreen with at least 30 SPF. This blocks at least 97% of UV rays. More isn’t always better though—products over 50 SPF are generally not necessary, so a good range to stick to is 30-50 SPF. This number can be found on the front packaging of most products.

Types of Sunscreen

The two different types of sunscreens available are physical (zinc/titanium based) and chemical (avobenzone/oxybenzone). Physical sunscreens work by deflecting UV rays from the sun, while chemical sunscreens absorb the UV rays. As a general rule of thumb, both types are equally effective as long as the SPF value is at least 30. Here is a comparison chart so you can see which may be a better fit for you:

Sunscreens come in a variety of different forms such as creams, lotions, gels, sprays, etc. Although sprays are convenient, they are the most prone to failure. It is best to stick to lotions and creams for overall use, especially for the face and neck.

How to Use Sunscreen

Most sunscreens should be applied at least 15 minutes before going outside and re-applied every 2 hours while outdoors and every time after swimming. Here’s how much to use for each body part:

  • 1/2 tsp: Torso, neck, face, arms, and shoulders.
  • 1 tsp: Legs and feet.

For more information on sunscreen and how to protect your skin this summer, please visit your Harmons to speak with a pharmacist.