Sizzle. Scorch. Seethe. These are just a few of the many words we use when our skin burns from the sun’s rays. Although most people are trying to get a tan, those UV rays are actually damaging skin cells. That damage can lead to premature aging, a weakened immune system, and, worse, skin cancer. But it is possible to get your vitamin D without the risk: Apply your sunscreen correctly.
Every summer, people pull out their swimsuits and towels from storage and are ready to hit the beach. But when they grab their beach supplies, they could also be reaching for an expired sunscreen. This is just one of the many reasons we might fail to protect ourselves from the sun. According to Amanda Friedrichs, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist, “People who get sunburned usually didn’t use enough sunscreen, didn’t reapply it after being in the sun, or used an expired product.”
To get through this summer without causing damage later on, apply these tips for sunscreen success.
>> Check the expiration date
Most organic sunscreens have a shelf life of two years compared with chemical-laden sunscreens, which can last three or more years.
>> Store sunscreen properly
Sunscreen can degrade over time, and exposure to heat and sunlight will affect its shelf life. Fluctuating temperatures can cause the ingredients found in the sunscreen to expire early, so keep sunscreen in a stable environment with temperatures below 90 degrees.
>> Use a sunscreen with a high SPF
If your sunscreen has a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 4, it’s not doing much. The SPF rating tells you how much your sunscreen protects you from UVB rays. Your sunscreen with the SPF of 4 is blocking only 75 percent of the rays, but anything stronger than SPF 30 will block 97 percent or more.
>> Apply before leaving
It takes 15 minutes for sunscreen to be absorbed and start protecting your skin, so instead of applying the sunscreen once you’ve hit the beach, apply it before you leave the house.
>> Cover all of your skin
Don’t just apply to the common areas like your arms and legs—remember to get the more sensitive areas too! Your neck, ears, feet, and the hard-to-reach-areas on your back are also in need of sunscreen. If your hair is thinning, apply sunscreen to your scalp or wear a wide-brimmed hat. Your lips also feel the effects of the sun, so keep an SPF 15 lip balm on hand.
>> More is better
According to Dr. Friedrichs, adults need at least 1 ounce of sunscreen—about the amount to fill a shot glass—to fully cover all exposed areas of their bodies. So apply generously and rub thoroughly.
>> Reapply, reapply, reapply
Putting on sunscreen at the start of the day will give your skin a fighting chance, but it needs to be reapplied frequently. The FDA states that sunscreen should be applied every two hours or immediately after swimming or extensive sweating, even if your sunscreen is waterproof.
Armed with these useful tips, you’ll be free to enjoy the sun (and also get your daily dose of vitamin D) without any lasting harmful effects from its rays.