Sunscreen can protect your skin against skin cancer and premature aging. However, it is not as effective unless it's applied correctly. Follow these tips from dermatologists when applying sunscreen:
- Choose sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher, is water resistant, and provides broad-spectrum coverage, which means it protects you from UVA and UVB rays.
- Apply sunscreen generously before going outdoors. It takes approximately 15- 30 minutes for your skin to absorb the sunscreen and protect you. If you wait until you are in the sun to apply sunscreen, your skin is unprotected and can burn.
- Use enough sunscreen. Most adults need at least one ounce of sunscreen, a standard shot glass, assuming you are wearing minimal clothing, to fully cover all exposed areas of your body. Rub the sunscreen thoroughly into your skin. If you are not liberally applying your sunscreen you may not be getting the sun protection rated on the label. This is a bit more difficult to determine if you are using a spray SPF.
- Apply sunscreen to all bare skin. Remember your neck, face, ears, tops of your feet and legs. For hard-to-reach areas like your back, ask someone to help you or use a spray sunscreen. If you have thinning hair, either apply sunscreen to your scalp or wear a wide-brimmed hat. To protect your lips, apply a lip balm with a SPF of at least 15.
- Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours to remain protected, or immediately after swimming or excessively sweating Sunscreen active ingredients break down in response to direct exposure to daylight, not by the passage of time. So, on an average day, your morning application of sunscreen is still going to provide some UV protection on your way home. This assumes you applied a sufficient amount in the morning, and that you have a schedule and job that keep you indoors and out of the sun for the majority of the day.
- If you spend the majority of your day outdoors, then the recommendation is to reapply every two hours, particularly if you're perspiring or swimming..
So lets talk about SPF, what exactly does this mean?
“SPF” refers to a sunscreen’s “sun protective factor,” or how long it blocks UVB rays. The SPF number reflects the amount of time it takes to sunburn wearing the sunscreen vs. not wearing the sunscreen
- For example, an SPF of 30 means that you can spend 30 times as long in the sun before burning compared to not wearing any sunscreen at all. So, if you would usually begin to burn after 5 minutes in the sun, an SPF of 30 would theoretically allow you to spend time outside for 150 minutes (30 x 5) before you burn. However, your unique skin, your activities, and the sun’s intensity all cause variation in how effective sunscreen is, so you may need to use more than other people.
- The SPF number can be tricky, because its protection doesn’t increase proportionally. So, SPF 60 is not twice as good as SPF 30. SPF 15 blocks about 94% of UVB rays, SPF 30 blocks about 97%, and SPF 45 blocks about 98%. No sunscreen blocks 100% of UVB rays.
- The American Academy of Dermatology recommends an SPF of 30 or higher The difference between extremely high SPFs is often negligible and not worth the extra money.
Sun Screen V Sun Block
Sunblock, the physical kind, contains both organic and non-organic ingredients that sit on top of the skin acting as a barrier between your skin and damaging UV rays by reflecting or scattering UVB light. Look for products with octyl methoxycinnamate, octyl salicylate and octocrylene.
Sunscreen, the chemical kind, penetrates the skin and absorbs the UVA rays before they are able to reach and damage your dermal layer. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the active ingredients in deflecting harmful UV rays before they reach the protective outer epidermis layer of your skin. Another ingredient to look for is ecamsule, which is a photostable sun protectant that blocks out photoaging UVA rays.
Sunblocks are formulated to shield against UVB rays, while sunscreens protect against UVA. In order to fully protect your skin, choose a broad-spectrum protection formulated sunscreen that will protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Luckily these days, formulas often contain a mixture of both sunblock and sunscreen.
What types of sunscreens work on different tones of skin? When it comes to skin tone, some sunscreens can give a chalky cast from the formulation. Those with darker skin tones should go for micronized formulas where the sunscreen aspects are so small they're not visible. It keeps you from getting that weird, gray-ish cast but they still protect from ultraviolet radiation, which is what you want. Darjer skin tones are also prone to higher water loss at the top layers of skin, so using a formula that has a higher moisturizing factor will help keep the formula stay put so the SPF factor has a chance to work.
What else can I do to protect myself?
You can still have fun in the sun, but be aware that the active sunscreen ingredients will not usually block out the complete spectrum of UVA and UVB rays, sunscreens by themselves might not offer enough protection to prevent skin cancer and some of the other sun-related ailments. To thoroughly protect yourself, you should take as many of the following steps as you can:
Generously apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30 to all exposed skin. "
Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat where possible.
Protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses whenever possible
Seek shade when appropriate,
Protect children from sun exposure by playing in the shade, using protective clothing and applying sunscreen.
Use extra caution near water, snow and sand as they reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.
Get vitamin D safely through a healthy diet that may include vitamin supplements.
Avoid tanning beds. Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling. If you want to look like you've been in the sun, consider using a sunless self-tanning product, but continue to use sunscreen with it.
Check your birthday suit on your birthday. If you notice anything changing, growing or bleeding on your skin, see a dermatologist. Skin cancer is very treatable when caught early.
Check the UV index on a daily basis to protect you and your family.
Teach Children early on about sun safety and how to protect them selves. Make sunscreen part of their daily routine.
Babies Keep babies out of direct sunlight. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using sunscreen on infants for small areas such as the face and back of hands where protection from clothing is inadequate.
People who get sunburned usually didn't use enough sunscreen, didn't reapply it after being in the sun, or used an expired product.
Your skin is exposed to the sun's harmful UV rays every time you go outside, even on cloudy days and in the winter. So whether you are on vacation or taking a brisk fall walk in your neighborhood, remember to use sunscreen.