The right sunscreen should protect our skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays, prevent cancer, and keep our skin looking young and healthy. But finding the right sunscreen isn’t as simple as choosing a brand you know and trust. It’s also important to make sure your sunscreen has sufficient sun protection factor (SPF).
Of course, you can also protect your skin from sun damage by wearing protective clothing. That includes long-sleeve shirts and pants, wide-brimmed hats, and neck gaiters. Clothing provides a natural barrier to UVA and UVB rays, meaning it has an SPF of its own.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you shop for sunscreen, and some tips on how to use it while you’re out and about.
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The Best SPF for Most People
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), everyone should be using sunscreen regardless of race or age. In fact, 1 in 5 people will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.
With that in mind, the AAD recommends everyone use a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30. The sunscreen you use should also be broad-spectrum, meaning it offers protection for both UVA and UVB rays.
UVA rays cause your skin to wrinkle and age, and you can be exposed to these rays even while indoors because UVA rays can pass through glass windows. UVB rays are the rays that cause your skin to burn. You can’t experience a sunburn while indoors as these rays cannot pass through glass.
When you’re shopping for sunscreen, be sure to choose an option that is at least 30 SPF and has specific wording labeling it a broad-spectrum lotion.
Finally, you should opt for a sunscreen that is water-resistant, even if you don’t plan to jump in the pool. Water-resistant sunscreen also will work while you’re sweating, and won’t come off if you do decide to take a dip in the water.
Applying Sunscreen for Best Results
Now that you have the right sunscreen, you’ll want to make sure you’re using it properly. The AAD warns that most people don’t use enough sunscreen and don’t hit all of the body parts prone to burning: the neck, lips, tops of feet, backs of hands, ears, and even the top of your head!
Most people need about one ounce of sunscreen to fully cover their entire body. For reference, an ounce of sunscreen is the equivalent of a shot glass full.
Applying sunscreen thoroughly is key, but you’ll also want to be sure to apply it about 15 minutes before you go the sun. That’s how long it takes the sunscreen to be fully absorbed into the skin and start to work.
Then, you’ll want to be sure to reapply. The AAD recommends reapplying at least every two hours. If you’re swimming or sweating, you should reapply more often than that.
Sunscreen is available in lotions, sprays, and gels, and choosing a type depends on your preference. But the AAD warns not to purchase sunscreens that also act as insect repellants because sunscreen and bug spray should be used in different amounts. Instead, shop for and use these products separately.
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