Be honest with yourself.
How much do you really know about sunscreen?
As important as it is for protecting your skin, perhaps it’s time to learn a bit more on the subject. Today we’ll share everything you’ve always wanted to know about sunscreen.
So pull up a chair in a shady spot and grab yourself a cold beverage. This is some quality stuff that will make sure you know the ins and outs of keeping your skin safe under the sun.
Standard Sunscreen Terms and Their Meaning
According to a study carried out by JAMA Dermatology, fewer than half of consumers that buy and use sunscreen actually know what they’re reading on the bottle.
Let’s break that down a little bit.
- 43% of participants understood the definition of SPF protection.
- 37.7% could define the term that indicates how well it protects against skin cancer
- 22.8% could identify the word that shows how well it protects against sunburn
That said, we’re going to make sure you know what you’re looking at so you can better arm yourself against the sun.
Sun Protection Factor
The SPF of your sunscreen indicates how long it will protect your skin against UVB rays. It’s specific to keeping your skin safe from sunburn.
For example: Applying a sunscreen labeled SPF 15 means it will take the sun 15 times longer to burn your skin than average.
UVA rays are the most common kind of sun rays. There are around 500 times more UVA rays than UVB rays.
These sun rays are particularly nasty. UVA rays can penetrate through clouds and windows and deep into the dermis of your skin.
UVA rays contribute to premature aging of the skin as well as skin cancer.
UVB rays are the real buzz kill. These little suckers are responsible for sunburn, and they’re also the most significant cause of skin cancer.
They are strongest between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm, during which hours it’s best to stay as covered as possible and in the shade.
It’s especially important to wear sunscreen.
This is the holy grail of sunscreen terms.
You want a bottle of sunscreen that says broad spectrum on it somewhere. That means it protects you from both UVB and UVA rays.
If your sunscreen isn’t broad-spectrum, you’re not even really protecting yourself.
When and How to Wear Sunscreen
It’s not enough to know about what sunscreen can do for you. If you’re not wearing it properly, you run the risk of damaging your skin regardless.
Here’s a rundown on best practices for applying your sunscreen.
How Often Should I Wear Sunscreen?
No matter how often you’re inside, you never really get away from sun exposure. That’s why it’s a good idea to wear sunscreen in some form every single day.
If you’re not going to be outside for a long time, SPF 15 should be plenty.
These days, it’s easy to find makeup, moisturizer, and lip balm that contain some level of SPF protection.
Even sitting inside, you could be soaking up harmful UVA rays as they penetrate clouds and windows without any trouble. So it’s best to be on guard at all times for the most protection.
How Much Sunscreen Should I Put On?
There’s a possibility you’re not applying as much sunscreen as you need to protect yourself.
Every time you put it on, you should be using an ounce of sunscreen.
That’s the equivalent of a shot of sunscreen. (So break out your shot glasses and measure away).
A good majority of that — about a nickel-sized dollop — needs to go on your face.
How Do I Apply Sunscreen Properly?
Make sure you’re getting it everywhere!
Pay extra attention to those spots that people tend to miss the most. Rub it into your feet and hands. Don’t forget your ears and neck — sunburnt ears hurt!
If you’re able, apply your sunscreen before you go outside. It takes 15 minutes for sunscreen to absorb into your skin and start working well.
How Often Should I Reapply Sunscreen?
You should reapply your sunscreen every two hours at the most. If you’re doing a lot of sweating or swimming, you may need to apply it more often.
This is true for water-resistant sunscreens as well. They only last for 40 to 80 minutes when exposed to water.
One dose of any sunscreen isn’t going to last you a full day at the beach.
Choosing the Right Sunscreen for Your Skin
As individuals, we all have different needs and concerns about our skin.
You must choose the right sunscreen for you, so you’re getting the most out of it. This may take some trial and error, but here’s some info to get you started.
Physical vs. Chemical Sunscreen
Manufacturers divide sunscreen into two categories. The categories depend on how they protect your skin from the sun and what ingredients are in them.
Physical sunscreen, also called mineral sunscreen, sits on top of your skin. When the rays of the sun come into contact with it, they bounce off and leave your skin be.
Chemical sunscreen soaks into your skin. As the rays get to your skin, they are essentially turned off by the sunscreen, so they can’t damage your skin in any way.
You should take into account the pros and cons of each type of sunscreen before making your choice.
For instance, people with sensitive skin will want a physical sunscreen to avoid irritation. While those that are highly active and sweat a lot may be better off using a chemical sunscreen.
What SPF is Best Anyway?
As a general rule, SPF 30 is the way to go.
But what about those super powerful SPFs? Undoubtedly they provide the most protection.
That’s a common misconception about sunscreen. Sunscreens with an SPF 75 or 100 don’t actually offer that much more protection. They may even be upping the SPF enough that it lowers the UVA protection, giving you less coverage.
- SPF 15 protects you against 93% of the sun’s rays.
- SPF 30 protects you against 97% of the sun’s rays.
- SPF 50 protects you against 98% of the sun’s rays.
While SPF 50 doesn’t go above and beyond what SPF 30 provides, there is a pretty significant difference in SPF 15 and 30.
On the one hand, you’re letting 7% of the sun’s rays into your skin. On the other, you’re only letting 3% in. That’s almost half the amount of sun getting to your skin.
Extra Tidbits About Sunscreen
There are just a few more things you’ll probably want to know about sunscreen before you head out.
Try to Avoid Spray-On Sunscreen
It may be easier to apply, but it’s not your best bet for full coverage.
Spray-on sunscreen will leave a thinner layer of protection on your skin, and you may even miss spots without knowing it. Getting a thick, even coat is easier when you rub it in with your hands.
Sunscreen Can Expire
Don’t grab that half used sunscreen from last summer and start slathering it on your skin. It’s probably not any good anymore.
Unopened, sunscreen has a shelf life of about two years. Once you open it, you need to use it or throw it away.
Never use sunscreen that is an odd consistency or has a funky smell. That’s definitely expired.
Nothing crazy will happen if you use expired sunscreen, it just won’t protect your skin from the sun, which is the entire point of wearing it.
There’s an Age Limit on Sunscreen
Well…. a tiny one.
Babies shouldn’t wear sunscreen until they are at least six months old. Use other kinds of protection to keep your baby safe from the sun.
For Best Results: Use Other Forms of Protection
Help your sunscreen out a little by wearing clothes that protect against sun exposure as well — hats with brims, sunglasses, and anything with UPF.
UPF stands for UV Protection Factor. Clothes with UPF are lightweight but add an extra layer of protection with tight weaves or special coatings.
The higher the level of UPF a garment has — the stronger the protection.
Your skin protects you from so much, and it deserves a little protection in return. The sun is the biggest threat your skin faces on an everyday basis.
Even if you can’t feel it happening, the sun likes to cause damage.
We hope you put everything you’ve learned here today to good use. Your skin will certainly thank you for it!
Karen Lein is the General Manager of Copper Beech Townhomes and Grove San Marcos. She is a Fresno State alumna and enjoys traveling and watching football. #GoDogs