We all wear our sunscreen on a hot day, but are we choosing the right one? Are we applying enough, and reapplying often enough? Get the most out of your sunscreen with these four tips on effective sunscreen selection and use!
1. Broad-Spectrum Protection
Get sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB light. These different types of UV radiation operate on different wavelengths. Ultraviolet-A radiation is present year-round and associated with increased risk of skin cancer, while ultraviolet-B is more present in the summer and associated with sunburn and skin damage.
Make sure your sunscreen contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to protect against both forms of UV radiation.
2. SPF 30 or Higher
The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of sunscreen measures how much solar energy it takes to cause a sunburn. It's a misconception that the SPF number is related to the time of solar exposure -- it's determined by how much of the sun's energy it can absorb and reflect, so a higher SPF won't let you stay in the sun for a longer period of time without reapplying sunscreen.
3. Apply Early, Apply Often
Sunscreen can take a half-hour for your skin to absorb, so make sure you apply it at least 30 minutes before going out into the sun.
Be certain you're using enough. Most people apply only 25 to 50 percent of the recommended amount by the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention. Apply at least one ounce (a palmful; about the size of a pair of dice) when applying it.
Reapply sunscreen every two hours during continued sun exposure, and every 60-80 minutes if you're swimming or sweating, or using a spray sunscreen.
4. Expand Your Options
Don't rely on sunscreen alone. It's necessary, but can't protect against all sun exposure. Supplement your skin protection with options such as:
- Wide-brimmed hats.
- Sunglasses with UV protection.
- Lip balm rated SPF 30 or higher.
- Long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Special sun-protective clothing with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) rating.
- Keep a emulsion cream designed for burn care handy just in case a burn occurs.