Wearing sunscreen is not only safe — it’s smart.
Looking forward to spending lots of time outdoors in the next few months? Make sure you’re prepared to protect your skin. Though it’s tempting to brush aside warnings about sun exposure, sunburn and UV rays, ignoring these cautions can lead to serious skin damage.
SPF, the acronym we see followed by a number on every bottle of sunscreen (and on a growing number of other body products, including moisturizers and makeup primers) stands for Solar Protection Factor. Theoretically, this number refers to the length of time you can stay in the sun. For example, if your unprotected skin starts to burn after 20 minutes of sun exposure, using an SPF 15 sunscreen purportedly prevents reddening 15 times longer — about five hours.
However, remember that no sunscreen will stay on your skin for more than two hours. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends applying one shot glass-full of sunscreen 30 minutes before sun exposure, and then reapplying every two hours. Reapply sunscreen more frequently if you’re sweating, swimming or drying off with a towel.
Solar protection doesn’t have to cast a pall on your fun in the sun! Read on to find out how to work skin safety into your routine.
Make sun protection a habit. An easy way to incorporate sunscreen every day is to work it into your makeup routine. Choose a moisturizer or day cream with SPF 30, and use it as a base for foundation. If you think you don’t like the way sunscreen smells, explore your options! There are lots of lovely, scented sunscreen and SPF moisturizer options, ranging from herbal to floral to downright delicious.
Shoot for the shade. Instead of laying your beach towel or blanket in direct sunlight, bring a big umbrella or pick a spot under a tree. You’ll still enjoy plenty of sunlight.
Amp up the SPF for a day outside. If you’re spending the day under the sun, grab a higher SPF. Many brands offer sunscreens with SPFs as high as 70, 80 or 85. But don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re protected all day. You’ll still need to reapply sunscreen every two hours as your skin absorbs it.
Drive safely. We don’t mean defensive driving! Your car windows may block some UVB rays, but most auto glass still allows the penetration of UVA rays — and, according to a study released in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, close to 53 percent of skin cancers diagnosed in the United States occur on the left side of the body: i.e., the driver’s side. If you don’t want to keep a bottle of sunscreen in your car, consider grabbing a pack of single-serve sunscreen wipes.
Remember your lips, scalp and hands. The sun can damage more than just your face and other exposed skin. Take extra care of yourself by applying sunscreen right up to the edge of your lips, or “vermilion,” where most skin cancers near the mouth occur, or use an SPF lip balm under your lipstick or gloss. If you part your hair, make sure to apply sunscreen on your exposed scalp — or just wear a hat. Finally, don’t forget your hands, as they’re almost always exposed to sunlight, and can age faster than the rest of your skin as a result!