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What is a Broad Spectrum Sunscreen?

Diane Goettel
Updated Feb 22, 2024
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Broad spectrum sunscreen is a kind of sunscreen that works to block two kinds of ultraviolet (UV) rays: UVA rays and UVB rays. Like other types of sunscreen, broad spectrum helps the user to avoid sun damage to the skin while also reducing one's risk of skin cancer. It can also help to reduce the appearance of aging in the skin, which can come in the form of discoloration in the skin, freckling, wrinkling, and sagging of the skin. Most dermatologists agree that broad spectrum lotion does a better job protecting the health and the youth of one's skin than sunscreen that does not protect the skin from both UVA and UVB rays.

Like other types of sunscreen, broad spectrum sunscreen must be reapplied on a regular basis when people are in direct sunlight for long periods of time. Even waterproof and sweat-proof sunscreen should be reapplied about every two hours at a minimum. Also, like other types of sunscreen, broad spectrum sunscreens have varying sun protection factors (SPFs). The higher the SPF, the more protection the sunscreen provides.

Although many people associate sunscreen with days at the beach or by the pool, broad spectrum sunscreen also has applications in daily life. It has become common for people to use daily skin care products that include SPF in order to protect their skin from the kind of sun damage that can come just from daily exposure. These products are sometimes formulated with broad spectrum sunscreen.

It is especially common for sunscreen to be built into products for the face, where people often concentrate their efforts to reduce the signs of aging. There are even products that are formulated specifically for the lip and mouth area. There are, however, lotions specifically marketed for the body that include sunscreen. These kinds of products often include a sunscreen with a sun protection factor between 15 and 30.

The price of this type of sunscreen varies wildly. There are affordable brands sold in drug stores and pharmacies for as little as $5 USD (US Dollars) per tube. On the other hand, there are some high-end skin care companies that sell tubes of broad spectrum sunscreen for $150 USD or more. These products are usually sold in boutiques and high-end department stores where the clientele regularly spends a great deal of money on a whole host of products, including skin care products.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Diane Goettel
By Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount Vernon, New York with her husband, Noah. They are the proud parents of a Doberman Pinscher named Spoon. Specialties: book editing, book marketing, book publishing, freelance writing, magazine publishing, magazine writing, copywriting,"
Discussion Comments
By Wisedly33 — On Oct 16, 2014

I use a broad spectrum sunscreen, but especially on my arms. I have some freckles and one little spot that I keep a constant eye on. I always either put sunscreen on it, or a little spot bandage if I have one. My doc says it's scar tissue, and it hasn't changed in years, but I am *not* taking any chances!

I also wear a cap since I have fine, thin hair and have had a sunburned scalp.

In general, I use the highest SPF I can find, and I make sure I put it on my face, ears and neck -- especially the back of my neck. But I also either wear a baseball cap or a wide-brimmed hat for extra protection.

By Scrbblchick — On Oct 15, 2014

I learned a long time ago to either stay out of the sun or use a lot of sunscreen. I always get the broad spectrum sunblock. Yes, I generally have about as much color as Casper the Friendly Ghost, but that's what tanning spray is for. Also, because I use sunscreen or stay inside, I look younger -- a lot younger. I am 46 and routinely have people say they think I'm about 30. Not being conceited -- just telling the truth.

I have friends I went to high school with who look 20 years older than I do because they tanned so much in high school and did the whole tanning bed thing. Not me.

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount...
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