News

Can You Buy Sunscreen With Your HSA or FSA?

It’s not all fun in the sun when it comes to UV exposure. Learn how to protect yourself with your HSA/FSA.

April 24, 2024
Sam O'Keefe
Co-founder & CEO of Flex
Flex - Can You Buy Sunscreen With Your HSA or FSA
Flex - Can You Buy Sunscreen With Your HSA or FSA

Overview

Overview

Overview

Summertime and the living’s easy… and sunny!

While we love the long days, it’s important to remember that the endless rays can be damaging to your skin if you’re not mindful. In fact, too much sun exposure can lead to sunburns, premature aging, and even skin cancer.

To protect yourself and your youthful complexion you’ll want to lather up with sunscreen, one of the easiest and most effective ways to block harmful ultraviolet (UV) light.

In fact, studies show that daily use of SPF 15 sunscreen can reduce the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by about 40 percent, and lower your melanoma risk by 50 percent.

Read on to learn about the health impacts of sun exposure, what to look for in sunscreen, and how to pay for it with your Health Savings Account (HSA) or  Flexible Spending Account (FSA).

Health Impacts of Too Much UV Exposure

The sun lights up our days and can feel good on the skin but you know the adage about too much of a good thing.

While sunshine helps to power plants and lets you synthesize vitamin d, a vital nutrient, it also contains high-energy UV radiation that can cause everything from dry skin to long-term changes in the epidermal structure.

Meet the Skin Damagers: UVB and UVA

Unfortunately, most skin cancers are caused by too much exposure to UV light. Within this band of electromagnetic radiation, there are two kinds of UV rays to pay attention to when it comes to skin damage:

  • UVB light is what causes sunburn and can lead to skin cancer.

  • UVA light affects cells deeper in the skin leading to premature aging, wrinkles, and some types of skin cancer.

Since many of us like to spend time outside, how can we protect ourselves?

Let’s Talk About Sunscreen

Sunscreens are an important way to protect your skin against the harmful rays of the sun. They come in a variety of forms, such as a lotion that most people are familiar with, as well as sprays, sticks, and powders.

They utilize one of two methods for protection, either physically blocking and reflecting ultraviolet rays or using chemicals to absorb the light. The formula also dictates how strong it is and what kind of light it protects against.

What does SPF mean?

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor which indicates a sunscreen’s ability to protect against UVB light. Typically, you will find ratings of SPF15, 30, and 40+. Essentially, the greater the SPF rating the more UVB light it will block. 

Note that SPF is a measure of how much protection it offers, not for how long. In other words, a higher SPF rating blocks a greater percentage of UV light but it doesn’t mean it will protect you for a longer period of time.

What about broad spectrum?

“Broad spectrum” is a term defined by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and indicates that a sunscreen will protect against both UVB and UVA. An SPF rating only indicates that a product will block UVB light, so you want to look for this term on the packaging for UVA protection too.

Factors to consider when using sunscreen

Many variables impact how effective sunscreen is. A few things to pay attention to:

  • How much to use: About one ounce, or roughly a shot glass worth, is how much sunscreen to use on your whole body for an average application. This ends up being about half a teaspoon for your face and neck and one teaspoon per arm and leg. That seems like a shockingly small amount, but research suggests most people under-apply. Note that sunscreen should be applied about 15 minutes before going outside.

  • Re-up after two hours: Sunscreens lose effectiveness over time and should be reapplied throughout the day. The general recommendation is every two hours, or if you’re in water, every 40 minutes. Be sure to read the instructions for the particular product you’re using.

  • Sweat and high-wear areas: Be mindful that sweat and rubbing against clothing can also wear off sunscreen.

  • Clothing can help: Along those lines, clothes can physically block UV rays, and some even have extra SPF protection built in (referred to as UPF). Wide-brimmed hats can help reduce the amount of sun exposure on your face and neck.

  • Weather and environment matter: A cloudy day equates to less UV radiation coming through the atmosphere (but it’s still there!). Same principle if you’re in a heavily-wooded forest.

  • So does the time of day: The sun is strongest between 10:00 a.m and 4:00 p.m., so you’ll want to be more mindful of wearing sunscreen in the middle of the day compared to early morning or evening.

  • Individual factors: Every body will respond differently to UV light, and skin with higher melanin levels naturally absorb less.

Who should and shouldn’t use sunscreen?

Anyone who is venturing outdoors should consider using sunscreen. However, people with fair skin or conditions such as rosacea, eczema and acne should be particularly mindful.

Beware that the FDA does not recommend sunscreen for babies who are 6 months old or younger. Instead, they recommend keeping infants out of the sun during midday and using protective clothing.

In addition to sunscreen, there are other options you can use for protection.

Other ways to protect yourself from the Sun

Sun protection can come in many forms since we’re really talking about physically blocking or absorbing the rays. Sun hats, head scarfs, long sleeve shirts with hoods, pants, and all sorts of clothing specially built for outdoor use come with ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) fabrics. Darker colors, tighter weaves, and synthetic fibers are factors to consider in clothing for sun protection.

For your eyes, you may want to consider tinted eyeglasses or polarized sunglasses. And don’t forget about your lips! (Skiers will know what we’re talking about). SPF lip balm can be an invaluable ally against a chafed, dry, and cracking mouth. Lastly, who said umbrellas are only for rainy days?

Common Questions About Sunscreen

How effective is sunscreen in the water and outside?

Sunscreen is considered to be effective both in and out of the water, but some are specifically designed to be water-resistant. This means the SPF level is designed to work for a certain amount of time, usually either 40 minutes or 80 minutes. 

What type of sunscreen is best?

This really depends, but you’ll want to consider factors such as your skin type, sensitivity, and personal preferences. Chemical sunscreens, which absorb UV radiation, tend to be more lightweight but may irritate those with sensitive skin. Physical sunscreens, that use active mineral ingredients to block or reflect UV light, tend to be thicker but may be more prone to clogging pores, for example. You’ll also want to think about how active you’ll be while wearing it, if you’ll be exposed to water, and what the ingredients are before determining what’s best for you in a certain situation.

Can you wear sunscreen/SPF every day?

Many dermatologists recommend wearing sunscreen every day. Using a moisturizer with SPF 15 or greater is a simple way to build that into your daily routine. Note that makeup claiming sun protection is unlikely to work as the typical application amount is not thick enough to provide proper coverage.

So, Is Sunscreen HSA or FSA Eligible?

The question you’ve all been waiting for! Yes, sunscreens that meet certain conditions are eligible for reimbursement with your HSA or FSA.

Specifically, the sunscreen must have an SPF of 15 or higher and offer broad-spectrum protection to be eligible.

Note that some products which include SPF are not eligible. For example, moisturizers or cosmetics with a sunscreen. 

This is because qualified medical expenses “must be primarily to alleviate or prevent a physical or mental disability or illness” according to the IRS. The issue comes down to something like a moisturizer with SPF being what the FDA considers to be “dual-purpose”, which means that they have both a medical and personal hygiene, cosmetic or general health purpose. Ultimately, that makes it ineligible.

Simplify the HSA/FSA reimbursement process with Flex

Since sunscreen is a qualified medical expense, you can use your HSA or FSA debit card to make your purchase (at a pharmacy, grocery store, major retailer, etc.). If need be, you can also pay for it out of pocket and get reimbursed. 

However, not all online retailers are able to accept HSA or FSA payments (you’ll know because your card will be declined). But if they have partnered with Flex they can! 

On the payment page you’ll see a "checkout with Flex" option. Pay for the product or service with your HSA or FSA card and checkout as usual. Flex will substantiate the purchase automatically. 

This means you won’t need to submit for reimbursement!

Sun Yourself Safely With Your HSA and FSA

It’s always sunny, at least from a UV level perspective. Before you head out remember to lather up with some sun protection and bask in those HSA/FSA savings.

Summertime and the living’s easy… and sunny!

While we love the long days, it’s important to remember that the endless rays can be damaging to your skin if you’re not mindful. In fact, too much sun exposure can lead to sunburns, premature aging, and even skin cancer.

To protect yourself and your youthful complexion you’ll want to lather up with sunscreen, one of the easiest and most effective ways to block harmful ultraviolet (UV) light.

In fact, studies show that daily use of SPF 15 sunscreen can reduce the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by about 40 percent, and lower your melanoma risk by 50 percent.

Read on to learn about the health impacts of sun exposure, what to look for in sunscreen, and how to pay for it with your Health Savings Account (HSA) or  Flexible Spending Account (FSA).

Health Impacts of Too Much UV Exposure

The sun lights up our days and can feel good on the skin but you know the adage about too much of a good thing.

While sunshine helps to power plants and lets you synthesize vitamin d, a vital nutrient, it also contains high-energy UV radiation that can cause everything from dry skin to long-term changes in the epidermal structure.

Meet the Skin Damagers: UVB and UVA

Unfortunately, most skin cancers are caused by too much exposure to UV light. Within this band of electromagnetic radiation, there are two kinds of UV rays to pay attention to when it comes to skin damage:

  • UVB light is what causes sunburn and can lead to skin cancer.

  • UVA light affects cells deeper in the skin leading to premature aging, wrinkles, and some types of skin cancer.

Since many of us like to spend time outside, how can we protect ourselves?

Let’s Talk About Sunscreen

Sunscreens are an important way to protect your skin against the harmful rays of the sun. They come in a variety of forms, such as a lotion that most people are familiar with, as well as sprays, sticks, and powders.

They utilize one of two methods for protection, either physically blocking and reflecting ultraviolet rays or using chemicals to absorb the light. The formula also dictates how strong it is and what kind of light it protects against.

What does SPF mean?

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor which indicates a sunscreen’s ability to protect against UVB light. Typically, you will find ratings of SPF15, 30, and 40+. Essentially, the greater the SPF rating the more UVB light it will block. 

Note that SPF is a measure of how much protection it offers, not for how long. In other words, a higher SPF rating blocks a greater percentage of UV light but it doesn’t mean it will protect you for a longer period of time.

What about broad spectrum?

“Broad spectrum” is a term defined by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and indicates that a sunscreen will protect against both UVB and UVA. An SPF rating only indicates that a product will block UVB light, so you want to look for this term on the packaging for UVA protection too.

Factors to consider when using sunscreen

Many variables impact how effective sunscreen is. A few things to pay attention to:

  • How much to use: About one ounce, or roughly a shot glass worth, is how much sunscreen to use on your whole body for an average application. This ends up being about half a teaspoon for your face and neck and one teaspoon per arm and leg. That seems like a shockingly small amount, but research suggests most people under-apply. Note that sunscreen should be applied about 15 minutes before going outside.

  • Re-up after two hours: Sunscreens lose effectiveness over time and should be reapplied throughout the day. The general recommendation is every two hours, or if you’re in water, every 40 minutes. Be sure to read the instructions for the particular product you’re using.

  • Sweat and high-wear areas: Be mindful that sweat and rubbing against clothing can also wear off sunscreen.

  • Clothing can help: Along those lines, clothes can physically block UV rays, and some even have extra SPF protection built in (referred to as UPF). Wide-brimmed hats can help reduce the amount of sun exposure on your face and neck.

  • Weather and environment matter: A cloudy day equates to less UV radiation coming through the atmosphere (but it’s still there!). Same principle if you’re in a heavily-wooded forest.

  • So does the time of day: The sun is strongest between 10:00 a.m and 4:00 p.m., so you’ll want to be more mindful of wearing sunscreen in the middle of the day compared to early morning or evening.

  • Individual factors: Every body will respond differently to UV light, and skin with higher melanin levels naturally absorb less.

Who should and shouldn’t use sunscreen?

Anyone who is venturing outdoors should consider using sunscreen. However, people with fair skin or conditions such as rosacea, eczema and acne should be particularly mindful.

Beware that the FDA does not recommend sunscreen for babies who are 6 months old or younger. Instead, they recommend keeping infants out of the sun during midday and using protective clothing.

In addition to sunscreen, there are other options you can use for protection.

Other ways to protect yourself from the Sun

Sun protection can come in many forms since we’re really talking about physically blocking or absorbing the rays. Sun hats, head scarfs, long sleeve shirts with hoods, pants, and all sorts of clothing specially built for outdoor use come with ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) fabrics. Darker colors, tighter weaves, and synthetic fibers are factors to consider in clothing for sun protection.

For your eyes, you may want to consider tinted eyeglasses or polarized sunglasses. And don’t forget about your lips! (Skiers will know what we’re talking about). SPF lip balm can be an invaluable ally against a chafed, dry, and cracking mouth. Lastly, who said umbrellas are only for rainy days?

Common Questions About Sunscreen

How effective is sunscreen in the water and outside?

Sunscreen is considered to be effective both in and out of the water, but some are specifically designed to be water-resistant. This means the SPF level is designed to work for a certain amount of time, usually either 40 minutes or 80 minutes. 

What type of sunscreen is best?

This really depends, but you’ll want to consider factors such as your skin type, sensitivity, and personal preferences. Chemical sunscreens, which absorb UV radiation, tend to be more lightweight but may irritate those with sensitive skin. Physical sunscreens, that use active mineral ingredients to block or reflect UV light, tend to be thicker but may be more prone to clogging pores, for example. You’ll also want to think about how active you’ll be while wearing it, if you’ll be exposed to water, and what the ingredients are before determining what’s best for you in a certain situation.

Can you wear sunscreen/SPF every day?

Many dermatologists recommend wearing sunscreen every day. Using a moisturizer with SPF 15 or greater is a simple way to build that into your daily routine. Note that makeup claiming sun protection is unlikely to work as the typical application amount is not thick enough to provide proper coverage.

So, Is Sunscreen HSA or FSA Eligible?

The question you’ve all been waiting for! Yes, sunscreens that meet certain conditions are eligible for reimbursement with your HSA or FSA.

Specifically, the sunscreen must have an SPF of 15 or higher and offer broad-spectrum protection to be eligible.

Note that some products which include SPF are not eligible. For example, moisturizers or cosmetics with a sunscreen. 

This is because qualified medical expenses “must be primarily to alleviate or prevent a physical or mental disability or illness” according to the IRS. The issue comes down to something like a moisturizer with SPF being what the FDA considers to be “dual-purpose”, which means that they have both a medical and personal hygiene, cosmetic or general health purpose. Ultimately, that makes it ineligible.

Simplify the HSA/FSA reimbursement process with Flex

Since sunscreen is a qualified medical expense, you can use your HSA or FSA debit card to make your purchase (at a pharmacy, grocery store, major retailer, etc.). If need be, you can also pay for it out of pocket and get reimbursed. 

However, not all online retailers are able to accept HSA or FSA payments (you’ll know because your card will be declined). But if they have partnered with Flex they can! 

On the payment page you’ll see a "checkout with Flex" option. Pay for the product or service with your HSA or FSA card and checkout as usual. Flex will substantiate the purchase automatically. 

This means you won’t need to submit for reimbursement!

Sun Yourself Safely With Your HSA and FSA

It’s always sunny, at least from a UV level perspective. Before you head out remember to lather up with some sun protection and bask in those HSA/FSA savings.

Flex is a modern marketplace for consumers to discover and purchase HSA/FSA eligible products. From fitness and nutrition, to sleep and mental health, Flex takes a holistic view of healthcare and enables consumers to use their pre-tax money to do the same.