The Top Three Sun Safety Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them!)
We all know that the sun damages skin. Women, especially, are aware of how sun damage can affect skin cosmetically - causing wrinkles and discolorations. But the sun also can be responsible for dangerous skin cancers, like melanoma. Below, check out the top three sun safety mistakes we make, and how to prevent them:
Sun Safety Mistake #1: Choosing a Sunscreen
You're standing in the sunscreen aisle at the drug store staring at more than 30 versions of sunscreen. Before you give up and just choose the one that smells the best, remember some key facts about "sun protection factor" (SPF).
First, select an SPF of at least 15, higher if you are more prone to sunburn. Next, check the bottle to see if it offers "broad-spectrum protection."
"Broad-spectrum sunscreens contain ingredients that block both UVA and UVB rays," says Dr. Marcela Young, Marcela Young, M.D. Internal Medicine. "That's important because while UVB rays cause sunburn, UVA rays can penetrate deeper into the skin and cause more damage to cells." Products that contain titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or Parsol 1789 (avobenzone) are the best for UVA protection.
Sun Safety Mistake #2: Faulty Application
Many people apply sunscreen once they get to the pool, beach or lake. But according to Dr. Young, it can take up to 20 minutes for the ingredients in sunscreen to fully bind to the skin and begin working. By then, you could be on your way to a burn. In addition, when you apply sunscreen at your destination, you're more likely to miss a spot - especially the small areas around the edges of your bathing suit.
"Apply your sunscreen before you leave the house so that you are more likely to cover all of your skin, and the sunscreen has a chance to be absorbed by the skin," says Dr. Young.
Sun Safety Mistake #3: Using Too Little
If you don't put on a thick enough layer of sunscreen, that SPF 30 could really function more as an SPF 15. "A good rule of thumb is to apply about an ounce of sunscreen at every application, and reapply every two hours," says Dr. Young. "Reapplication of sunscreen is just as important as putting it on the first time, so reapply the same amount every two hours, and after swimming, toweling off, or sweating"
So if you're spending an entire 8-hour day in the sun, one person would use nearly half of an 8 oz. bottle of sunscreen.
One final thought on sun safety: keep in mind that we get sun all the time - not just when we're at the beach. Even on cloudy days, just walking to the mailbox or doing yard work without sunscreen can cause damage. It's a good idea to get into the routine of wearing sunscreen every day to protect your skin.
Dr. Marcela Young is an Internal Medicine physician with Marcela Young, M.D. Internal Medicine in Greenville.
Learn more about Dr. Young.