Sunscreen is an important tool in preventing sun damage, but improper use can actually lessen the effectiveness of sunscreen. Before stepping out in the sun this summer, take a look at these 5 common sunscreen mistakes you might be making.
- Not wearing sunscreen daily. Regardless of your age, race, gender or skin tone, you need sunscreen. Sunscreen protects the skin from ultraviolet rays emitted by the sun. There are two types of ultraviolet rays: UVA and UVB. The majority of the sun’s rays – 90 to 95% — are UVA rays. These rays penetrate deeply into the skin contributing to premature aging and wrinkles. UVB rays account for only about 5 to 10% of the rays produced by the sun, but they are the primary cause of sunburn. Both types of rays contribute to skin cancer and are present even on cold or cloudy days. Wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day, year round is the best way to protect your skin.
- Choosing the wrong sunscreen. Broad-spectrum sunscreens offer protection from both UVA and UVB rays. It is important to choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15. SPF ranges from 2 to 50.The higher the SPF number, the more protection it provides. SPF is determined by how long it would take unprotected skin to burn. A fair-skinned person would normally burn in 10 minutes without sun protection. A sunscreen with an SPF 2 protection level would stretch that time to 20 minutes and an SPF 15 would protect the skin 15 times longer, approximately 150 minutes.
- Not using enough sunscreen. Most of us don’t use enough sunscreen, and scrimping can lead to sunburn. One ounce of sunscreen – about a shot glassful – is recommended to cover the exposed areas of the body. But keep in mind, the larger you are, the more sunscreen you’ll need. When in doubt, apply more.
- Using an outdated product. The FDA requires all sunscreens to remain stable for a period of at least three years. If you are using the proper amount, it shouldn’t take long to go through a bottle, but if you are concerned about expiration, write the date of purchase on the bottle when you bring it home.
- Failing to re–apply. Most sunscreens are only effective for around two hours when you are in the sun. Swimming and perspiring can wash away sunscreen even sooner, so it is important to re-apply at least every two hours and immediately after vigorous activity or a dip in the pool.
Most of us enjoy getting outdoors during the summer months, but proper skin protection helps prevent premature aging and skin cancer. Hats and sun-protective clothing provide additional protection from the damaging rays of the sun.