Just going to the grocery store, playing sports outdoors or walking to get lunch can expose your skin to damaging ultra violet rays, the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer.
Approximately a million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year. According to the American Academy of Dermatologists, someone dies from melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, every hour.
Your skin is exposed to the sun's harmful UV rays every time you go outside, even on cloudy days and in the winter.
What can you do to stay protected?
You can still enjoy the outdoors by choosing simple strategies such as seeking shade, wearing protective clothing and generously applying sunscreen.
Keep in mind that no sunscreen can filter out 100% of the sun's UVB rays. That’s why it's important to also wear protective clothing and seek shade.
When shopping for sunscreen, the options can be overwhelming. There are lotions, sprays, gels, creams and many different SPFs. They all work well as long as you use them the correct way.
Sunscreens are assigned a sun protection factor (SPF) number that rates their effectiveness in blocking UV rays. Higher numbers indicate more protection.
There are two types of sunscreens: physical and chemical. Each of these protects your skin in a different way and contains different active ingredients.
The physical sunscreen works like a shield. It protects you by deflecting the sun’s rays. This type of sunscreen contains the active ingredients titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide.
The chemical sunscreen works as a sponge, absorbing the sun’s rays. It may contain one or more of many possible active ingredients, including oxybenzone or avobenzene.
Look for a sunscreen that offers the following three essentials as they can reduce your risk of skin cancer, age spots, wrinkles, sunburn and melasma.
- SPF 30. You can choose an SPF 50 but anything above that is not going to give you much added protection.
- Broad-spectrum protection. That means it would protect your skin from both UVA aging rays and UVB burning rays.
- Water-resistant. Even if you are not going to be in the water, you are probably going to sweat in the sun. Reapply it often.
What does it mean?
When you see the word ‘sports’ on sunscreen it usually means that it will stay on wet skin for either 40 or 80 minutes. Check the label.
When you see the word ‘baby’ it means the sunscreen contains only the active ingredients titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, as these are less likely to irritate a baby’s sensitive skin. If possible, avoid using sunscreen on children younger than six months of age.
‘Sensitive skin’ means it contains one or both titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, is hypoallergenic, does not contain fragrance, oils or active ingredients found in chemical sunscreens.
How to apply sunscreen
Follow these tips from dermatologists when applying sunscreen:
- Apply sunscreen generously before going outdoors. It takes approximately 15 minutes for your skin to absorb the sunscreen and protect you. If you wait until you are in the sun to apply sunscreen, your skin is unprotected and can burn.
- Apply enough sunscreen to cover all exposed skin. Most adults need about 1 ounce — or enough to fill a shot glass — to fully cover their body. Rub the sunscreen thoroughly into your skin.
- Apply sunscreen to all bare skin. Remember your neck, face, ears, tops of your feet and legs. For hard‐to‐reach areas like your back, ask someone to help you or use a spray sunscreen. Spray sunscreen, however, is harmful if inhaled. If you are applying it to your face, it is best to spray the sunscreen on your hand and then rub it on. If you have thinning hair, either apply sunscreen to your scalp or wear a wide‐brimmed hat. To protect your lips, apply a lip balm with a SPF of at least 15.
- To remain protected when outdoors, reapply sunscreen every two hours, or immediately after swimming or sweating. People usually get sunburned because they didn't use enough sunscreen, didn't reapply it after being in the sun, or used an expired product.