With summer season upon us, a lot of us will be reaching for sunscreen. But there’s more to staying safe from the sun’s harmful rays than just slathering or spraying on sunscreen.
Here are some dos and don’ts from the American Academy of Dermatology and the Skin Cancer Foundation:
- Buy smart. Sunlight consists of two types of harmful rays that reach Earth — ultraviolet A and B rays. Look for broad-spectrum sunscreen, which protects against both types and helps prevent sunburns, early skin aging and skin cancer. It should have an SPF of 30 or higher. And it should also be water resistant — meaning it’s effective for up to 40 minutes in the water.
- Apply it generously. Most people don’t use enough. Be the exception by applying about a palmful of sunscreen to any part of your body not covered by clothes. That’s a nickel-sized dollop on your face alone. If you’re using a spray, apply it until your skin has an even sheen.
- Go ahead and use last summer’s. Sunscreens are required to retain their original strength for at least three years. Not sure when you bought yours? Look for an expiration date; some sunscreens include one. If it’s passed, toss out the sunscreen. There are also visible signs that the sunscreen may no longer be good, such as a change in color or consistency.
- Use it on cloudy days, too. Even when it’s overcast, 80 percent of the sun’s rays can still reach your skin.
- Wait until you’re in the sun before apply sunscreen. The best practice is to apply sunscreen to dry skin 15 minutes before heading outdoors.
- Make it one and done. Reapply sunscreen every two hours (or as often as the label says) and after swimming or sweating.
- Assume that a higher-number SPF lasts longer. Sunscreens last the same amount of time regardless of their SPF number.
- Overlook other sun safeguards. When you’re out in the sun, don’t rely solely on sunscreen to protect your skin. Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. And be a shade-seeker, too.
A few final tips:
- Certain medicines can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Consult with your doctor to learn more about these interactions and how to protect yourself and your skin.
- Pollution, smoke, stress and UV rays can all have harmful effects on the skin. Create a healthy skincare routine and make sunscreen a habit in your daily life.
- Search for a Henry Mayo-affiliated physician to learn more about skin cancer screening. Go online to www.henrymayo.com for more info.
Patrick Moody is director of marketing and public relations at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital.