Whether you’re building sun castles on the beach, skiing down a slope, or hiking up a mountain, when you’re outside, you’re constantly exposed to invisible rays called ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Sunscreen is an important way of protecting your skin from these harmful rays. But like toothpaste, if you don’t use enough or use it incorrectly it leaves you vulnerable. Only instead of cavities, you’re susceptible to premature aging from wrinkles to other long-term skin conditions.
No sunscreen is able to 100% filter out UV rays. In fact, many people experience sunburns due to faulty and infrequent application. All dermatologists universally agree that most people don’t follow directions for sunscreen application properly nor do they re-apply sunscreen as regularly as they should.
Here are some tips on wearing sunscreen correctly and daily, which will help prevent sun damage:
While the FDA recommends the use of at least an SPF 15, most dermatologists recommend SPF 30 and above. SPF is a scientific measure that gives an idea of how much lower the risk of skin damage is due to the use of sunscreen. The protection offered by sunscreens of different SPFs is as follows:
Additionally, you should look for the labeling “Broad Spectrum” which is an FDA indication on whether the sunscreen protects from both UVA and UVB rays in the same proportion.
For the best protection, you should apply sunscreen liberally on all exposed areas at least 30 minutes before going outdoors. This time allows the sunscreen to absorb into your skin, which can then convert light to heat. “Liberally” also means applying at least a shot glass sized portion for your body and a nickel-sized dollop for your face. Slather all over your body before you dress to ensure full coverage.
If you can’t wait 30 minutes before hitting the beach, look for sunscreens that have both zinc and titanium dioxide. These minerals block the sun’s UV rays so they work faster than chemical sunscreen ingredients.
FDA regulations now mandate that sunscreen be labeled water-and-sweat resistant for up to 40-80 minutes. Sunscreen will need to be reapplied beyond that time frame because no sunscreen is completely impervious to water and sweat.
No matter the season, you should wear sunscreen every single day of the year. A study published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) found that 78% of people who used only an umbrella on a sunny day burned, versus 25% of those who used only SPF. Your best defense is to triple up on the sun protection: apply sunscreen, stay in the shade, wear sun-protective clothing and sunglasses.
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