The Sunscreen Mistakes Almost Everyone Makes

1. You’re not wearing a sunscreen every day.  It’s the incidental sun exposure during our lifetime (5 minutes here and 5 minutes there) that can contribute to an increased risk of skin cancer—as well as to increased wrinkles and premature skin aging.  Most people don’t think they need sunscreen if they’re just outside for 5 minutes. You should be applying SPF  first thing in the morning so you start off with protection.

2.  You need sunscreen many times you are INDOORS. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can even penetrate through windows—in the office, home, and car—so you may be getting exposed, and not even think about it.

3.  A big hat at the beach is already protecting you.  Sand, concrete and water  can reflect up to 85 percent of UV rays—meaning even if you’re wearing a hat or are sitting under an umbrella, you’re still exposed.  Also, keep in mind that your lips and hands need protection, too: look for balms/creams with an SPF 15 or higher.

4.  You’re not applying sunscreen SOON enough before heading outside. If you’re wearing a chemical sunscreen (anything with sun-protective chemicals like oxybenzone, octisalate, or avobenzone), you need to apply it at least 30 minutes before going in the sun. “This gives the sunscreen time to get into the skin and render the protection necessary.

5. You’re not layering antioxidants under your sunscreen. Many sunscreens contain antioxidants, but they can quickly lose their potency. The reason: most antioxidants—like vitamins C and E, green tea, and pomegranate—aren’t stable enough to maintain their long-term benefits when mixed into a sunscreen. But antioxidants are critical because they help negate the skin-damaging and skin-aging free radicals generated by the sun’s ultraviolet light.

6. You’re not applying enough sunscreen.  “The average person uses less than half the amount they should be using,” says Steven Q. Wang, M.D.,. “You need to apply a shot glass worth of sunscreen to your entire body every two hours.” So a typical 5oz bottle of sunscreen is really only 5 full-body applications. If you notice that you’re bottle of sunscreen is lasting longer than a few days when you’re on a beach vacation, you’re definitely not using enough.

7.  You don’t reapply often enough.  You need to continually reapply (at least every two hours) to get effective protection. Also know that spray sunscreens don’t cover skin as effectively as a lotion, so if you use them, you need to rub them into your skin and reapply sometimes more often than every two hours. If you’re tanning through sunscreen, then either the sunscreen is not being reapplied often enough or too little is being put on.

8. You use SPF 50+ to get the most effective sun protection. While SPF 50 may sound like a lot more protection than SPF 30, the higher the number doesn’t always guarantee much more protection and actually gives you a false sense of security.  You need to block against UVB and UVA rays, so look for a sunscreen that says “broad-spectrum” protection. New FDA rules state that if a product offers “broad-spectrum” protection, it must be stated on the front label.

9. You don’t avoid the sun.  Instead of seeking shade or staying out of the sun between its strongest hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., people go out and get as much exposure as they can.”  “UV radiation causes direct DNA damage to the cells,” explains Dr. Wang. “Cells do have a mechanism to repair the damage, but as we get older, our repair mechanism diminishes. If the skin cells aren’t able to be repaired, cancer can result.” UV radiation also suppresses production of a key structural protein.

10.  Believing your sunscreen is waterproof. You will actually notice that sunscreens are no longer allowed to claim they are waterproof and/or on the bottle. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a new set of rules which prevents these types of impossible claims. Instead, sunscreens can only claims to be water resistant for either 40 or 80 minutes (depending on test results).  The product may stay on your skin when you’re swimming, but once you get out, remember it’ll quickly get rubbed off when you towel off to dry.

11. Skipping sunscreen on cloudy days. Overcast days may be a bit gloomy, but that doesn’t mean the sun isn’t shining. Even if it doesn’t feel like it the sun’s UV rays are actually penetrating the clouds and hitting your skin, which means skipping the sunscreen on a cloudy day is a big no-no. In fact, on a completely cloudy day 40% of the sun’s UV rays still reach the earth.


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