Sunscreen tips for best sun protection and skin care

Sun Protection
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Sure, it may take a few minutes to slather it on, but sunscreen is well worth the effort when it comes to protecting your skin against the sun and skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 1 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer diagnosed in the United States each year are related to sun exposure.

A good sunscreen protects the skin against damage ultraviolet light (UV) rays, which not only promote skin cancer but also dry out the skin and accelerate aging, and weaken the body’s immune system. The question is, “What’s a good sunscreen?”

An effective sunscreen includes ingredients that fight both UVA and UVB rays and offers a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. Most dermatologists and other health professionals, however, recommend an SPF of 30. However, sunscreen only offers sun protection if applied properly.

The general recommendation is to use one ounce for full-body coverage, but you can use less if you are not exposing lots of skin to the sun. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that people “generously apply sunscreen to all exposed skin.” Areas that have very thin skin are especially vulnerable, so be generous on your nose, ears, and tops of your feet if you are exposing your toes. If you apply a too-thin layer of sunscreen, it reduces its ability to adequately absorb or reflect UV rays.

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Should you use lotion or spray sunscreen? Lotions and creams are the most popular and tend to be easier to use because you can target your applications. Sometimes children like sprays more than lotions, and people who have a lot of body hair tend to do better with spray sunscreens.

When should you apply sunscreen? Slather it on dry skin between 20 and 30 minutes before you expose yourself to the sun. This gives your body enough time to properly absorb it. You will need to reapply it about every two hours, but more often if you are sweating profusely or if you are engaging in activities that can cause it to rub or wear off faster, such as swimming or rock climbing. If you are sweaty, find a shaded location to dry off and reapply the sunscreen for best results. It is best to reapply sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes before you go back into the sun.

Remember, the higher in elevation you are, the thinner the atmosphere and the most powerful the UV rays. It is estimated that UV radiation increases 4 percent for every 1,000 feet above sea level. If you are in subtropical or tropical areas, the sun’s intensity is greater the closer you are to the equator, so be more conscious of sunscreen use.

Finally, don’t forget to put sunscreen on children. Children older than six months should use sunscreen, while the skin of younger children too easily absorbs the chemicals used in these products. Infants, therefore, should be shaded from the sun using clothing, umbrellas, and other sun protection items. Enjoy the summer!

Source: American Academy of Dermatology
Environmental Protection Agency
Skin Cancer Foundation

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