How Can I Maximize My Sunscreen Benefits This Summer?
- Posted on: Jul 20 2020
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately five million Americans are treated for various forms of skin cancer each year. In many cases, skin cancer is the result of exposure to ultraviolet rays from excessive sun exposure or indoor tanning. The good news is that a quality waterproof sunscreen or sunblock cream can drastically reduce your risk of skin damage or skin cancer as you go about your favorite outdoor activities this summer.
Why Use Sunscreen Protection?
Most people, especially women, are aware of the benefits of sunscreen for face protection. Applying sunscreen protection to your face every time you go outside can reduce premature skin aging caused by everyday sun exposure. Unfortunately, even individuals who understand the benefits of sunscreen for face protection often fail to apply it to other exposed skin. Without sunscreen protection, you can start to develop a sunburn in as little as 15 minutes of being outside. It also can take up to 12 hours for the full extent of the sunburn to become apparent. Even the golden tan that many people crave during the summer is a sign of skin damage. The change in skin color occurs when the body increases melanin production to try to protect the skin from ultraviolet rays. Each sunburn or tan that you get during your life also has a cumulative effect, which exponentially increases your risk of developing skin cancer later in life.
Who Needs to Use Sunscreen?
Everyone, regardless of age, gender, or skin type, should wear sunscreen when going outdoors. According to a 2015 survey, only 23% of men and 43% of women reported using sunscreen regularly when outdoors for more than an hour. Certain demographic groups reported an even lower rate of sunscreen usage, including:
- Males between the ages of 18 and 24
- Non-Hispanic blacks
- Individuals with less sun-sensitive skin
- Individuals with household incomes below $60,000 per year
Among those who used sunscreen, the survey found that many only applied it to their faces but not other exposed areas. A large percentage also did not know if their sunscreen offered broad-spectrum protection.
Which Kinds of Products Provide the Most Sunscreen Benefits?
A broad-spectrum waterproof sunscreen or sunblock cream with a sun protection factor of 15 or greater will provide you with the most sunscreen benefits. Coconut oil, baby oil, and do-it-yourself products do not provide adequate sun protection. Today’s sunscreens come in a wide range of textures, consistencies, and scents. If you don’t like the way one product feels or smells, there are plenty more that you can try.
It is also important that you follow the manufacturer’s directions for use. In general, you will need to use much more of the product than you think is necessary. To get the most sunscreen benefits, you should use enough product to fill a shot glass to cover the entire body and up to a half-teaspoon for the face. When applying your sunscreen, make sure to cover all exposed skin, including the tips of your ears, your nose, lips, and the tops of your feet. You should also apply your sunscreen early and frequently. The CDC recommends applying sunscreen approximately 30 minutes before going outside and reapplying at least every two hours, especially if you are swimming or sweating.
Is Sunscreen Alone Enough?
The CDC recommends using a combination of approaches for effective sun safety:
- Avoid going outdoors during midday when the sun’s ultraviolet rays are at their strongest.
- Stay in the shade whenever possible.
- Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt and pants. In general, clothes made from dark, tightly woven materials will offer the most protection. There are even clothing products specifically designed to provide UV protection.
- Wear a broad-brimmed hat to protect your face, nose, and ears.
- Wear sunglasses that provide UVA and UVB protection to prevent eye damage.
- Get out of the sun as quickly as possible if you notice your skin starting to get pink.
Is Sunscreen Safe for Babies?
Most sunscreen products can be safely used on babies over the age of six months. The best way to protect younger children is to keep them in the shade as much as possible and dress them in protective clothing. Keep in mind that young children are more susceptible than adults to other adverse effects from excessive heat and sun, such as dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke, so you should monitor the amount of time they spend outdoors.
Finally, remember that clouds do not block all of the ultraviolet rays from the sun, so you should also wear sunscreen on cloudy days.