Don’t Get Burned: Sunscreen Tips For Summer Safety

Summer is officially upon us, and although sunscreen should be worn year-round, summertime is a great reminder of how important sunscreen really is, not just for redheads like myself, but for everyone of every ethnicity and skin type!

Who needs sunscreen?
Sunscreen should be worn by everyone, not just those with light-colored skin. People of all skin colors can get skin cancer, and many cases of skin cancer could have been prevented with protection from the sun.

When should I use sunscreen?
sunscreenEvery day if you will be outside. Even cloudy days can pose the risk of sunburn. In fact, on a cloudy day, up to 80% of the sun’s harmful UV rays can still penetrate your skin. The sun emits UV rays all year long, and snow, sand, and water increase the need for sunscreen because they reflect the sun’s rays.

What sunscreen should I use?
When shopping for sunscreen, there are a few things to look for:

  • Broad-spectrum protection: This helps protect you from UVA and UVB rays.
  • Sun Protection Factor (SPF): 30 or greater is often the recommendation from dermatologists.
  • Water resistance

sunscreen infographic

The FDA released new consumer updates in 2012 that affected the way sunscreen is labeled. For example, you won’t find “sunblock” on the shelves anymore. Instead, you’ll find “sunscreen”. You also won’t find the words “sweatproof” or “waterproof” labeled on sunscreen anymore. Look for keywords like “water resistant” instead.

How much sunscreen should I use?
Use enough sunscreen to generously coat all the skin that won’t be covered by clothing. Most people only apply 25%-50% of the recommended amount of sunscreen. It usually takes about an ounce of sunscreen to cover each exposed area (depending on your body size, of course), and it should be applied to dry skin and allowed to dry for 15 minutes before going outdoors. Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours or after swimming or heavy sweating.

Skin cancer can also form on the lips— To protect your lips, apply a lip balm or lipstick that contains an SPF of 30 or higher.

Can I use the sunscreen I bought last summer?
The FDA requires that sunscreens retain their original strength for at least three years. Some sunscreens include an expiration date, and if your sunscreen has passed its expiration date, it should be thrown away. Some more obvious signs that a sunscreen is expired include changes in its color or consistency.

Are spray sunscreens safe?
Currently, the FDA is investigating the risks of spray sunscreen inhalation. It can be difficult to gauge how much sunscreen has been applied when using spray sunscreens, so many dermatologists recommend using creams, gels, and sticks for more accurate and complete coverage.

When using spray sunscreen, it’s important to never spray it near the face or around the mouth. Spraying the sunscreen onto your hands and then applying can help to avoid fumes and allows for better coverage.

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