GET THE SCOOP ON SUNSCREEN
Protection from the sun is important no matter what your age or skin type. That’s because the sun emits ultraviolet (UV) rays that can cause skin cancer. Sunscreen can help protect you from these harmful rays. But given how many options there are, choosing the right sunscreen may seem difficult. Here are 4 quick tips to help you zero in on the right product. Choose a sunscreen that:
- Is broad spectrum. Broad spectrum sunscreens help shield you from both UVA rays (which can cause signs of aging) and UVB rays (which can cause skin cancer).
- Has a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30. SPF 30 can block 97 percent of the sun’s rays. Sunscreens with higher SPF can block a little bit more. But no sunscreen can block the sun’s rays completely. Sunscreens with an SPF that is higher than 50 are no more effective than those with an SPF of 50. And sunscreens with higher SPF also do not last any longer.
- Is water-resistant. This is important if you plan to be in the water or if you’re going to be sweating a lot. Sunscreens labeled “water-resistant” can protect you for up to 40 minutes. Sunscreens labeled “very water-resistant” can protect you for up to 80 minutes. No sunscreen is fully waterproof or sweatproof. Those that are water-resistant still have to be reapplied.
- Comes in a form that works best for you. Sunscreens come in many different forms. There are lotions, sprays, creams, gels, and wax sticks. Some of these work better on certain parts of the body than others. For instance, gels work well on areas with hair, like arms, legs, the chest, and the scalp. Creams are good for dry skin and work well on the face. Sticks can also work well on the face. And sprays can be quick and easy to apply, though they may not provide the best coverage. Choose the type that best meets your needs.
Apply sunscreen any time you are outside. Do so early and often. Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going out. If your sunscreen doesn’t tell you when to reapply, every 2 hours is a good general rule. Apply more often if you’re in and out of water.
Make sure to cover any skin that is not covered by clothing. How much is enough? Dermatologists recommend using one ounce. This is equal to 2 tablespoons. This amount should be enough to cover your body. Use a dollop of that—at least the size of a nickel—for your face area alone. Don’t forget your lips, ears, entire neck, collarbone area, and any exposed scalp.
Sunscreen is a great tool to help shield your skin from the sun. But you can also take other steps to protect your skin. It’s best, whenever possible, to also cover up with hats, sunglasses, and tightly knit clothing in dark or intense colors (like black or red). When outside, keep an eye on your shadow, too. If it’s short, the sun is at its peak and strongest. That’s a good time to seek shade. This is often between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. And be extra careful around water and sand, as they can reflect the sun’s rays.