request info email to friend
Understanding Effective Sunscreen Use
It is important to protect your skin against the sun year-round. But it is especially important during the summer, when the rays are stronger and people are outside more. The Skin Cancer Foundation has some advice for how to ensure you are getting the maximum protection.
First, virtually everyone over 6 months of age should use sunscreen every day. Even if it is cloudy and even if you are not light-skinned, have no family history of skin cancer or burning, and don’t work outside, you should apply sunscreen in the morning and reapply throughout the day. Most importantly, sunscreen helps protect against skin cancer. But it also helps prevent wrinkles, dark spots and other cosmetic issues as you age.
If you are inside most of the time, you can use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or above, according to the foundation. But if you are going to be outside a lot – either for work or for recreation – you need an SPF of at least 30. SPF refers to the time it would take your skin to redden with or without sunscreen. So, for example, an SPF of 15 means it would take your skin 15 times as long to redden than it would if you were not wearing sunscreen.
Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen, which protects against both UVA and UVB rays. There are basically two kinds of sunscreen: physical and chemical. Physical sunscreens contain ingredients such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which block rays from penetrating your skin. Ingredients in chemical sunscreens absorb the rays before they penetrate your skin. Physical sunscreens might be less likely to irritate skin, but both kinds of sunscreens are safe to use, the foundation says. Many sunscreens use both physical and chemical ingredients.
The foundation stresses that the most important thing is to use enough sunscreen and to reapply often. You should use an ounce of sunscreen – or a shotglass full – and reapply at least every two hours. Reapply more often if you are sweating heavily, and reapply immediately after swimming – even if your sunscreen says it is waterproof or water-resistant.
In addition to using sunscreen, you can take other steps to protect against damage from the sun, including:
- Avoid being in the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest.
- Cover exposed skin with clothing treated to block the sun’s rays.
- Protect your face and neck by wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
- Wear sunglasses that offer UV protection to your eyes.