Sunscreen is a critical tool for protecting your skin from harmful UV radiation. But it’s not the only defense you need against the sun.

Many of our favorite recreational activities take place outdoors, particularly during the summer. Whether you’re splashing around in the surf on a sunny summer beach, running the bases at a company softball game, or just enjoying a nice afternoon on the porch, protecting yourself from the harmful rays of the sun is vital in maintaining good skin health—including preventing premature aging and lowering of the risk of developing skin cancer.

Sunscreen is essential, and we offer some helpful tips to make sure you’re using it correctly. But sunscreen is not a total solution to protecting yourself from harmful UV rays. That’s why we also recommend other ways to keep yourself safe this summer. 

Protect all the skin you’re in. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays—from the sun or from artificial sources like tanning beds—is the most common cause of skin cancer. Anyone, no matter their skin tone, can get skin cancer.

How to Properly Use Sunscreen

Choosing the best sunscreen for your skin type, geographic location, and outdoor activities is important. 

But before delving into the specifics, it’s important to use sunscreen in a way that allows it to do its job in the most effectively. 

Always wear sunscreen when spending time outside. 

UV radiation is a danger in nearly all day-time weather conditions—including when it’s cold, cloudy, or raining. According to studies, more than 3/4 of UV rays make it through the clouds. Sunscreen_spray

Put on sunscreen 15–30 minutes before going outside

Apply at least an ounce of sunscreen (roughly 3 tablespoons). This should be enough to cover the entire body. Studies have found that people frequently don’t use enough sunscreen. Partial coverage significantly reduces the effectiveness of sunscreen and exposes the body to UV radiation.

Make sure to get full coverage

Many people miss the ears, tops of the feet, calves and backs of the knees, back of the neck, back of hands, and bald spots. Skin cancer frequently forms on the scalp, especially for those with little or no hair.

Sunscreen can be applied under makeup

Reapply every 2 hours. Even for long-lasting and waterproof sunscreens. If you’re swimming, or sweating heavily, reapply every hour and a half.

Always check the expiration date of your sunscreen  

The FDA requires that expiration dates be printed on the bottle; sunscreen will loose its protective power over time.
Protect all the skin you’re in. Use a layered approach for sun protection. Sunscreen works best when used with shade or clothes, and it must be re-applied every 2 hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off. Wear a hat, sunglasses, and protective clothing to shield skin. Use broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15 to protect exposed skin. Seek shade, especially during midday hours.

Protect Yourself from UV Rays

While sunscreen is an important and effective tool in protecting your skin from UV radiation, no sunscreen is 100% effective in combatting UV rays. Sunscreen shouldn’t be perceived as a total solution to sun protection, but rather as one of several steps you can take every day.

Stay indoors when UV radiation is most intense 

Doctors recommend staying out of the sun, either seeking shade or staying indoors, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. (this is true all year around, even in winter). While it’s a good idea to stay protected all day long, it’s absolutely critical to wear sunscreen if you find yourself exposed to UV radiation in the middle of the day.

Wear clothing with a UVP on the label

UVP stands for ultraviolet protection. Some clothing manufactures include chemical treatments and other measures that improve the ability of an article of clothing to protect against UV radiation. (A standard cotton t-shirt offers less protection than SPF 5 sunscreen, which is well below the recommended SPF 15).

Wear the proper attire

Melanoma can form in the eyes if left unprotected, so you should always wear sunglasses to protect your eyes. Wear a hat with a brim to protect your face and neck. Also, wear dark clothes with a close-knit or reflective fabric.

In Summary

Harmful UV rays pose a significant threat to the health of our skin. Sunburns, premature aging, and skin cancer are all common consequences of frequent exposure to the sun.

It’s simple to protect yourself from these dangers—apply sunscreen, don’t use tanning beds, wear protective clothing, and stay out of the sun when possible, especially during the middle of the day.

By making these activities a part of your daily routine, you can maintain healthy skin and avoid skin cancer. Download and print the infographic below, put it on the refrigerator, and keep yourself safe from the sun!

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Do you want to learn everything you need to know about skin cancer:  What to expect, how do you treat it, and how it will affect your life?  Download our free eBook today and get your questions answered.