What You Need to Know About Sunscreen this Summer
By Brian Acton
Sunscreen is crucial for protecting your skin, especially if you spend a lot of time outside in the summer months. That’s because the ultraviolet (UV) rays produced by the sun damage your skin’s cells, causing mutations that can lead to skin cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 90% of non-melanoma skin cancer cases are associated with exposure to UV radiation. And even if exposure to UV rays doesn’t lead to cancer, it can cause painful sunburns.
Sunscreen is one of the best weapons in the fight against UV rays, but it isn’t foolproof. You need to know its limitations and the correct way to use it. Here’s what you need to know about sunscreen this summer.
- You Might Not Be Using Enough
The amount of sunscreen you need to apply depends on how much skin you have exposed and your body type. But according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, most people only apply 25 – 50% of the appropriate amount. They recommend using at least one ounce, or approximately enough to fill a shot glass, of sunscreen to cover your body. Ideally, you should be applying sunscreen to every area of your skin that could be exposed to UV rays - not just your face, neck, and shoulders.
- You Might Be Putting it On Too Late
If you’re applying sunscreen outside, you’re not getting the full benefit. It can take about 15 minutes for your skin to effectively absorb sunscreen and provide full protection. If you wait until you’re in the sun, your skin will be unprotected during that time and you could burn. Make sure to apply sunscreen before
you go out.
- You Need SPF 30 at Minimum
Dermatologists agree that everyone should use a sunscreen between SPF 30 and SPF 50. At SPF 30, nearly 97% of UVB rays are blocked, but anything over 50 is likely not that much more effective. They also recommend your sunscreen be broad spectrum, which protects against both UVA and UVB rays, and water-resistant.
- Spray Sunscreen Isn’t as Effective
Spray sunscreens are easier to apply, but they might not give you adequate protection. You’re less likely to apply an even coating on all areas of your body with a spray bottle. Plus, spray sunscreens are flammable and the FDA recommends not spraying your face because of the risk of inhalation.
- Check the Expiration Date
Did you know sunscreen can expire? Check the expiration date on the bottle, and throw out anything that is past its prime. If you buy sunscreen without an expiration date, you can write the date of purchase on the bottle and throw it away once three years have passed. If you use sunscreen liberally, most bottles shouldn’t make it past their expiration date.
- Yes, You Need to Reapply
Many sunscreens claim to be water resistant, but that doesn’t mean they are waterproof. Any time you go swimming, you should reapply your sunscreen when you get out of the water. Even if you’re staying dry, you should reapply every two hours.
- They’re Not Just for The Beach and Pool
Sunscreens may be heavily associated with beaches and pools, but those aren’t the only places you should be using them. Anytime you get prolonged exposure to the sun, you should be applying sunscreen. You could be gardening, playing sports, or just going for a walk. If the sun’s rays are hitting your exposed skin for more than a few minutes, sunscreen is a good idea.