How Many of These Sunscreen Mistakes Do You Make?

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • You might put on sunscreen regularly. You might take extra steps to make sure you protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. But despite all your precautions, you might not be protecting yourself as well as you can. There are a number of common mistakes people make when using sunscreen. How many of them do you make?


    You apply your sunscreen after you are outside. For sunscreen to work properly, you need to apply it about 30 minutes before going outside. Many people wait until they get to the pool or the beach to apply sunscreen but this means your first half hour out in the sun you aren’t protected. To be safe, apply your sunscreen at home before going outside to make sure you are protected immediately.

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    You put your sunscreen on only once a day. It is recommended that you reapply sunscreen every two hours, more often if you are sweating or in the water.


    You apply your sunscreen sparingly. Think in terms of a shotglass, an egg or a golfball. That is the amount of sunscreen you should use to cover your entire body.


    You assume the higher the SPF, the longer your protection. The SPF, or sun protection factor, doesn’t have anything to do with the length of time you are protected. All sunscreens last about 2 hours, regardless of the SPF. Today, doctors recommend using an SPF of at least 30 and reapplying every two hours.


    You assume all sunscreens are the same. Besides the SPF, sunscreens vary – some are water resistant and some are not. Some block UVB rays only. Be sure you are using a “broad spectrum” sunscreen which blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Be sure to choose the sunscreen that matches your daily activities, such as a water resistant sunscreen for days you plan to be in the water. Read the sunscreen label to make sure you are getting the right sunscreen.


    You apply sunscreen with your clothes on. When you apply sunscreen around your clothes you are likely to do one of two things.  You might apply it lightly around your clothes to avoid getting it on your clothes or you are going to avoid the areas around your clothes, leaving you unprotected in those areas.


    You skip areas. Many people miss certain areas, such as their ears, behind their neck, on their toes, the bottom of your feet and your underarm.  Make sure you apply sunscreen on those small areas and apply a lip balm with sunscreen to protect your lips.


    You rub the sunscreen into your skin. Sunscreen should be applied in a thin layer, allowing it to be absorbed into your skin. When you rub the sunscreen into your skin, you are spreading the layer too thin and rubbing away the protection.


    You use a general sunscreen when going in the water or sweating. When you plan on being in the water or will be sweating, you should use a water-resistant sunscreen. Those that do not state “water-resistant” on the label will come off as soon as you get wet, leaving you unprotected.


    You use last year’s sunscreen. It doesn’t seem like it should, but sunscreen has a limited life. Sunscreen that is more than 12 months old should be thrown away because it loses effectiveness after this time. You should buy a new bottle of sunscreen each year and throw out any old bottles.


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    You skip sunscreen on cloudy or cool days. While it seems like you shouldn’t need sunscreen when the sun isn’t out, that just isn’t true. Up to eighty percent of the sun’s rays can penetrate the clouds. Make it a daily ritual to put on sunscreen, no matter what the weather.


    You are taking medication that make you more sensitive to the sun or interfere with the effectiveness of sunscreen. Some over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen, can decrease the effectiveness. Other medications make you more sensitive to the sun. If you are taking medication, even over-the-counter medications, and aren’t sure whether it is going to interfere with your sun protection, ask your pharmacist.


    You believe sunscreen is all you need. Sunscreen is important but it is only one part of your sun protection plan. You should still wear wide brimmed hats and sunglasses. You should still stay out of the sun as much as possible during the hours of 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM.


    You don’t think you need sunscreen while indoors or driving in the car. The sun’s rays can penetrate glass so even if you are going to be in the car, you still need sunscreen. The same is true if you are indoors and are near a window.


    You assume that once you get a tan, you don’t need sunscreen anymore. It is a myth that a tan protects you from damaging rays. Any tan signals some skin damage. Be sure to protect yourself from the beginning of the summer until the end by using sunscreen every day.


    You assume that because you have dark skin you don’t need sunscreen. No one is immune to the harmful effects of the sun. While those with dark skin don’t get skin cancer as often as those with light skin, having dark skin doesn’t make you immune to skin cancer or premature aging.


    You assume that because you haven’t been diligent with sunscreen in the past, that it is too late and you don’t need to bother anymore. Skin cancer usually results from cumulative damage from the sun, which means that even if you have gotten sunburned in the past, protecting yourself today is still important.

Published On: July 02, 2014