It’s summertime baby! You may think it’s officially time to bust out the sunscreen for those days out in the hot sun, but the truth is, protecting your skin is a year-round commitment. Even during the winter, you’re still at risk for getting sunburned and causing skin damage. The temperatures may not be as hot, but the sun—and its harmful rays—are still there. Not protecting your skin can cause temporary pain such as a sunburn, and it can also cause long-term damage that cannot always be seen by the naked eye. Properly protecting your body’s first line of defense—your skin—can drastically decrease your chances of developing skin cancer. There are other negative effects from not wearing sunscreen, such as wrinkles, freckles, premature aging, sunspots, and scarring from severe or multiple sunburns.
The problem is, how do you know what sunscreen is best for you? If you go to any drug store there is an entire aisle of sunscreen options. Picking the right one for your lifestyle is important. Here’s a quick guide to help you make the right decision for you and your family’s sun protection needs.
Look for BROAD SPECTRUM
Sunscreens that say broad spectrum give you protection from the two types of UV light, UVB rays (i.e. reddening and sunburns) and UVA rays (i.e. skin cancers, premature aging)
Check the SPF
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. It’s a measure of how well the sunscreen will protect you from the sun. Here’s an example of how it works:
- SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays
- SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays
- SPF 50 blocks 98% of UVB rays
Regardless of the SPF, you should always reapply sunscreen every two to three hours, especially if you’re doing activities that involve being in water or sweating. Be sure to read the directions on the container so you know exactly how often you should reapply.
To learn more about SPF ranges, visit www.skincancer.org.
Types of sunscreen
There are three main types of sunscreen:
All three types work well and will get the job done. Just make sure it has broad spectrum and an SPF level appropriate to your activity and lifestyle. There are also water-resistant sunscreens available if you plan to be at a pool, beach or some other water-related activity.
When to apply
You should apply sunscreen 20-30 minutes before stepping outside; that should give the sunscreen enough time to dry and form a protective shield on your body. If you apply sunscreen once you’re already outside, it makes it harder for your skin to properly absorb the sunscreen. Always reapply every two hours to give yourself all-day protection.
Where to apply
Anywhere your skin is exposed to the sun. Be sure not to forget the sensitive areas on your body such as your ears, nose, scalp, forehead, eyelids and the back of your neck. The tops of your hands and feet are also important since the skin is thinner. Shoulders, arms, back, and chest are large areas of your body that need to be protected as well. And let’s not forget, your lips. Apply a lip balm that contains SPF, so your lips are protected and moisturized.
Now that you know a little more about sunscreen, make sure you take the time to buy the right one for you and use it often, no matter what the season.
Have fun in the sun!