BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Cosmetic Laser Surgeon Dr. Warren Seiler says the most important difference between a lot of over the counter sunscreens and medical sunscreens is the ingredient zinc.
Most people buy sunblock from local retailers who line shelves with options such as SPF 30, 50, waterproof or baby friendly.
Many popular sunblock brands do not contain zinc in the ingredient list.
"There's a huge difference between over the counter and medical grade sunscreen. Medical grade sunscreen is going to have zinc, which is the only thing that truly fully blocks UVA which is the more damaging of the rays of the sun," said Seiler.
Also the higher SPF isn't necessarily better.
"Once you get to a 30 or 40 SPF you're blocking 97 percent of the UVB rays. It doesn't say anything about UVA. All of the number that it gives you extra SPF is simply just more chemical that gives you a half to maybe one percent more coverage of UVB," Seiler said.
Seiler says UVB is connected to surface damage.
UVA causes deeper damage that is connected to aging issues and skin cancer.
Over the counter sun block costs $8-$20.
Seiler said medical grade costs between $20-$40.
"Skip dinner one night and be able to afford your sunscreen. It's that important," said Dr. Seiler.