Because about half of every American who reaches 65 will develop some form of skin cancer in their lifetime, you may believe it’s wise to get a skin test. But another intelligent move would be to be well-informed on what’s right and what’s not when it comes to sunscreen usage. There is so much information out there on when to use sunscreen and when skip it. Today, our board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Malena Amato sounds off on common SPF mistakes.
1. You Don’t Use Enough
You may know that a shot glass of sunscreen is enough to cover your body. But understanding this and doing it are not the same. Studies note that most people apply only 25% of the recommended amount of sunscreen to reach the SPF on the label. If you use less than recommended, you get less protection and increase the risk of skin cancer, premature aging, and sunburn. This problem is simple to solve — apply liberally and often.
2. You Only Look at SPF
Look for the words “broad-spectrum” on the label of your sunscreen. If they’re not there, you’re exposing your skin to the dangers of UVA and UVB rays. Although many sunscreens today are broad-spectrum, moisturizers and makeup with SPF don’t offer UVA protection. We suggest you use a broad-spectrum sunscreen or moisturizer under your makeup for optimal protection.
3. Darker Skin Makes You Immune From Sunburn
Although there is extra melanin in darker skin tones to minimize the risk of sunburn, this natural protein does not protect your skin from UVA rays. Also, the redness of a sunburn doesn’t show up as well on darker skin. So, whether you have dark or fair skin, you are vulnerable to the effects of the sun, and we recommend applying sunscreen liberally.
4. You Apply Sunscreen Too Late
Read the label. You should apply sunscreen at least a half-hour before subjecting your skin to the sun. It takes that long for the beneficial ingredients to absorb into the skin and activate. If you’re going to the beach or pool, don’t wait until you’re already out in the sun. You should put on sunscreen in your house or in the car and wait the time necessary for absorption and activation.
5. You Don’t Reapply Enough
To get the best effect of sunscreen’s ability to block dangerous UV rays, you must reapply it regularly. Whether it’s an SPF of 15 or 50, water-resistant or not, continuous use is crucial. We recommend you reapply every half-hour, or as suggested on the label. And it’s not only necessary when you’re lounging by the pool, but it’s also critical if you’re driving or working by a window. UV rays infiltrate glass and can be just as dangerous.