Preventing sun damage is much more than just a cosmetic issue, it could save your life. More than three million cases of skin cancer were diagnosed in the United States in 2015 alone, according to the American Cancer Society. But properly applying sunscreen takes more effort than slopping it on when you arrive at the beach. Follow these tips and you’ll never get burned again.
Do apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every day of the year, even if it’s cloudy or snowy out. Even on a cloudy, windy, gray day, up to 80 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet rays can pass through clouds. You’re not safe from sun exposure in winter, either: Snow reflects 80 percent of sun’s rays.
Don’t forget to use sunscreen even on days when you will be spending most of the time indoors. Glass protects against UVB rays, which are responsible for sunburns, but UVA rays, which suppress the immune system and result in wrinkles, brown spots and skin cancer penetrate right through glass. Be especially vigilant on days you will be driving a lot as these rays also go through car windshields and windows.
Do apply sunblock at least 15 to 30 minutes before heading outdoors to give it time to dry on your skin and absorb as needed.
Don’t skip important but not obvious parts of your body. Even if you’re not at the beach or pool, it’s especially important to apply sunblock to your hands, décolletage, forearms, lips and your ears, not just your face. These areas receive the most incidental sun exposure and are not only quick to show signs of aging, they are also top spots for melanoma and cancerous tumors.
Do look for sunscreens that provide broad spectrum UV-coverage and carry the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) seal of recognition and/or the Skin Cancer Foundation seal. This means the sunscreen contains at least three active ingredients, including Parsol 1789, Mexoryl, titanium dioxide or zinc oxide for UVA protection; PABA derivatives, salicylates, and/or cinnamates (octylmethoxycinnamate and cinoxate) for UVB absorption; benzophenones (such as oxybenzone and sulisobenzone) for shorter-wavelength UVA protection.
Don’t confuse “water-resistant” or “water-proof” with water impervious. Even these formulas will wear off after 30 minutes or more in the water or after excessive sweating. More so, they can easily rub off when you towel-off post-swim.
Do stay out of the sun between 10am-4pm: peak hours for sun exposure. And for all you exercise enthusiasts, bravo, but remember to be sun smart and protect your skin so your skin can be as healthy and beautiful as your lungs, muscles and heart.
Don’t think that staying in the shade means you don’t need sunblock. The sun’s rays can penetrate through umbrellas and straw shades and bounce off of surfaces like sand, water and concrete. Yes, that means you can get sun exposure even when you’re in the shade!
Do store your sunblock in a cool dry place. The FDA requires all sunscreens to be stable for at least three years, so it is safe to use sunscreen that has been in your closet all winter long, provided it’s not past any expiration date that’s printed on the bottle.
Don’t skimp on the amount of sunscreen you use. According to the AAD, most people only use 25-50 percent of the recommended amount of sunscreen. One ounce (a shot glass full) is the general recommendation.
Do be sun smart: wear sun protective clothing, including long-sleeved shirts and pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
Don’t stay out in the sun all day, even when wearing sunscreen. An SPF 30 still allows 3 percent of UVA and UVB rays to penetrate skin, and that’s if you apply it perfectly (hint, no one does!).
Do visit your dermatologist once a year for a full body skin exam.
Don’t panic if you do have a sunburn. Most can be treated with cool baths, moisturizers, over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams and an anti-inflammatory such as aspirin or ibuprofen. However, if your sunburn is accompanied by a headache, chills or a fever, seek medical help immediately.