We all know we’re supposed to wear sunscreen, but with hundreds of options on the shelves every summer, many of us end up choosing the wrong one. Here’s what you need to know about how to choose the right sunscreen, and why.
Why do we need sunscreen?
Sun exposure can damage the skin in many ways, and it can also cause potentially deadly skin cancer. Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers out there, and one of the most preventable. Wearing sunscreen greatly reduces your risk. On top of that, sunscreen can prevent or slow down discoloration and brown spots, wrinkles, redness, and other cosmetic skin damage that can be made worse by the sun.
Before you buy:
Start by checking the expiration date on your sunscreen and throwing out anything past due. If your sunscreen isn’t expired but you carried it around in your beach bag all last summer, you would be wise to throw that out, too sunscreen really does lose its effectiveness over time, and regular exposure to sun and heat can speed up that process.
Reading a sunscreen label:
When choosing a sunscreen, look for the words “full-spectrum” or UVA/UVB coverage. After that, check the Sun Protection Factor (SPF). If you plan to be out in the sun for an extended period of time, choose an SPF of 30 or higher. But don’t be fooled into buying sunscreen with an SPF of 80 or 100 experts say that anything over 50 won’t make much difference for your skin.
How to apply sunscreen:
Sunscreen should be applied, well, almost everywhere. Don’t forget your face, lips, back, neck, and, if you have them, bald spots. It’s best to put sunscreen on indoors, at least 15 minutes before you go outside (so the lotion can absorb and work properly). Take care to re-apply your sunscreen at least every two hours. If you’re swimming or sweating from outdoor activities, you should probably slather up more frequently.
Three myths about sunscreen:
- Myth: You don’t need to wear sunscreen if it’s cloudy.
Truth: You should always apply sunscreen if you’re going to be outside the sun’s rays can still reach you when it’s cloudy.
- Myth: You don’t need wear sunscreen if you have a darker skin tone.
Truth: Having darker skin may reduce your risk of getting skin cancer, but it doesn’t eliminate it. Darker skin can still be damaged by the sun, and people with darker skin should still wear sunscreen.
- Myth: Wearing sunscreen prevents you from getting enough Vitamin D.
Truth: Most people get plenty of Vitamin D through their diet and just a little bit of sun exposure. It’s unlikely that regularly wearing sunscreen will negatively impact your Vitamin D levels.
Be smart in the sun:
Don’t forget, in addition to wearing sunscreen, that you can also protect yourself from harmful ultraviolet rays with breathable clothing, hats, sunglasses and umbrellas. And just because you’re wearing sunscreen doesn’t give you license to bake experts agree that there is no such thing as a safe tan.