It doesn’t matter what type of skin you have; whether you develop a beautiful bronze or burn badly too much unprotected exposure to the sun is unhealthy.
This is because UV rays promote the formation of damaging free radicals in the skin. The damage they cause can lead to wrinkles, age spots, blotchy pigmentation, sun freckles and worst of all, skin cancer.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), skin cancer would be much less common if more people were aware of and knew how to check for the signs and symptoms and actually took the time to do so.
Another part of the problem: many people don’t know how to properly protect their skin from the sun, so make sure to stay on top of your skincare game this summer (and all year long) by following these five important tips.
1. Make sure you use enough sunscreen.
Skincare experts almost unanimously agree that one of the most common mistakes people make when spending time outside is not using enough sunscreen
“Most adults need about one ounce (the size of a shot glass) to fully cover their bodies,” said Dr. Jeffery Benabio, a board-certified dermatologist and the Physician Director of Healthcare Transformation at Kaiser Permanente. “Many sunscreens come in bottles of three to six ounces, so that’s three to six applications. If you’re using the same bottle of sunscreen in July that you opened in May, you’re not using enough.” Also, make sure to cover often-missed body parts like your ears, neck, lips, hand and feet.
2. Reapply your sunscreen often, even if it’s waterproof.
Actually, there’s no such thing as waterproof sunscreen. “There is ‘water-resistant’ sunscreen, but this will also come off your skin after heavy sweating, or a dip in the ocean or pool,” said Dr. Susan Huang, a board-certified dermatologist at the Harvard teaching hospital Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and an instructor at Harvard Medical School. In fact, the FDA recently prohibited use of the term “waterproof” because it causes people to falsely believe sunscreen can’t come off.
“If you buy a water-resistant sunscreen, it will say that it’s effective for either 40 minutes or 80 minutes. That will tell you how long your skin can be wet or sweaty before you need to reapply,” says Benabio.
3. Pick an effective sunscreen that’s designed for your skin.
“It’s very important to match the right sunscreen to your skin type so that you love your product and wear it every day,” said Dr. Cynthia Bailey, a board-certified dermatologist and the President and CEO of Advanced Skin Care and Dermatology Physicians. “I always recommend mineral zinc oxide based products because of the way zinc works and because it is one of only two FDA approved broad spectrum ingredients to block UV-A1 rays, which are the most intense and are out all day, all year and penetrate the skin most deeply.”
Bailey’s website provides an excellent in-depth guide that can help you choose the right sunscreen for your skin type and individual needs. You can also refer to her “quick pick” guide based on the most common skin types and questions that she receives.
4. Where sunscreen every time you go outside.
Even if you’re not headed to bask in the sun at the beach or play in the park, it’s important to protect your skin, even on days when it’s not sunny. UV rays can penetrate clouds, so just because you can’t see or feel the sun doesn’t mean its rays aren’t reaching your skin. Bailey said that too many people commonly believe their skin is safe on a cloudy day and pointed out that it’s important to use protection in the morning, the late afternoon and even when you’re in the shade. In other words, there’s no time of day or type of weather when your skin is safe from the sun so it’s a good idea to always use sunscreen on body parts that are exposed.
5. Invest in other forms of protection.
Unfortunately, sunscreen can’t block every single type of light ray emitted by the sun. “Even zinc oxide lets the very end of the UV-A1 rays through,” Bailey said. “It’s why you need to wear a full brimmed hat and sun protective clothing when possible for the best protection.”