The positives of adding sunscreen to your daily routine

A fountain of youth of sorts might be hiding in your bathroom cupboard. That’s according to UW Medicine dermatologist Kendra Bergstrom, who relates the power of sunscreen and sunblock to do more than protect you from painful burns.

“If you’re planning to stay looking young your whole life, having an SPF sunblock is part of an everyday routine is going to be really helpful,” Bergstrom says. Daily sunscreen use can help prevent skin damage, from wrinkles to cancer.

When it comes to warding off the sun’s adverse rays, Bergstrom says it can be simple to find the right product:

Seek out “broad spectrum” creams and sprays, which block both UVA and UVB rays. (UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin and can cause long-term damage, along with aging and wrinkling; UVB rays largely affect the top dermal layer, causing sunburns.)

Know your SPF (sun protection factor) number and pay attention to the SPF number on the bottle, but don’t let the wide range of options overwhelm you, Bergstrom says. “The sweet spot when I shop is between SPF 30 and SPF 50.”

For optimal protection, choose a sunscreen or sunblock that is broad spectrum and has an SPF between 30 and 50, Bergstrom advises. The difference between the two is how they combat the sun's rays: Sunscreen uses a chemical reaction to absorb UV light before your skin can, and converts the light into heat that is released and pushed away from your skin. Sunblock, on the other hand, contains mineral ingredients that physically block UV rays from reaching your skin.

Download video assets with tips and perspective from Bergstrom, who also addresses common misconceptions about sun in the Pacific Northwest.

UW Medicine