With summer in full swing, you’ve probably suffered through a couple sunburns by now. Not only is damage from the sun quite painful, but it’s dangerous. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S. and 90% of skin damage (including premature aging) is caused by sun exposure. Good news, though: you can prevent skin damage and lower your risk of skin cancer by correctly using sunscreen. Many of us think we are using sunscreen correctly, but there are a lot of misunderstandings that lead to sun damage and painful burns. Here’s how to become more sunscreen savvy:
1. Wear it every day
Sunscreen isn’t just for your trip to the beach. The most damage to your skin is actually caused from cumulative sun exposure, meaning it builds up during your morning run, sitting on your patio, or playing outside with your kids.
Use a daily sunscreen for your face and body, and apply your sunscreen before any other body products. There are plenty of body lotions out there that have SPF 30 or higher built in.
2. Wear SPF 30+
For ideal sun protection, The American Academy of Dermatology recommends an SPF 30 for daily wear and an SPF 50 for outdoor activities. It’s common to find sunscreens that claim to be SPF 80 or even SPF 100, but The Academy stresses that anything over an SPF 50 is only as effective as the SPF 50. SPF 50 provides ideal and maximum sun protection. Soon the FDA will regulate the labels to read simply SPF 50+ to avoid any confusion.
3. Apply enough
For daily wear, a quarter-sized application of a lotion is enough. If you’re going to be in direct sunlight all day, try and double that amount, and reapply it regularly. For small children, be careful to apply it all over their body and reapply every 1-2 hours. If you’re using a spray sunscreen, apply it liberally and rub the sunscreen into your skin.
4. Protect your face
Shoulders, neck, and the back of your ears are all great places to reapply and layer your SPF, but don’t forget to apply your SPF liberally to your face. Your facial skin is more delicate than the rest of your body and visibly displays skin damage quicker than your body. You will prevent signs of aging like wrinkles, sun spots, and sagging with proper and consistent use of SPF. I recommend using SPF 30 or 50 on your face every single day.
5. Store it properly
Sunscreen loses its effectiveness when stored in a hot, sunny area or if it’s expired. Think twice before keeping it stashed in your golf bag, car, or in your beach bag. Ideally, sunscreen should be stored in a cool, dry place like in your medicine cabinet or bathroom drawer. And yes, you should purchase new bottles of sunscreen each year to make sure they aren’t expired.
Living a healthy lifestyle is about maximizing your state of health and wellbeing with all of your daily habits and routines. Wearing SPF regularly not only decreases your risk of skin cancer, but also preserves your skin health and appearance. Feeling good about yourself on the outside really does affect your daily mood and mind function.
Have a safe rest of the summer—use SPF!
Best of health,
Dr. Chad M. Hoffman