Is Your Sunscreen Routine Protecting Your Skin From Damage?

Is your sunscreen really protecting your skin from sun damage? You might think applying sunscreen is as simple as opening a bottle and slathering on some lotion, but you may be missing some of its effectiveness by applying it incorrectly.

First, don’t use sunscreen past its expiration date. Most sunscreens are designed to last for up to three years, so it’s fine to use them from one year to the next. If it’s been longer than three years, though, it’s time to make a new purchase. Some sunscreens include an expiration date. If yours is past due, toss it out and start fresh.

When choosing sunscreen, aim for an SPF that’s 30 or higher, provides broad-spectrum coverage, and is water resistant. An SPF (sun factor protection) 30 blocks nearly 97% of UVB radiation. Going higher than 50 is unnecessary because the increased protection is minimal.

Don’t wait until you’re already in the sun to apply sunscreen. It takes about 15 minutes for sunscreen to absorb into your skin, so it’s best to apply while you’re still indoors. The easiest and most effective way to put on sunscreen is to apply it before you get dressed. This way you’re not working around your clothes and all areas of your body will be covered, even if your swimsuit or clothes shift throughout the day.

Completely cover your skin with sunscreen. Most people apply only 25-50% of the recommended amount of sunscreen, which helps explain why some people get burned even when they’re wearing it. The American Academy of Dermatology suggests using a full ounce (enough to fill a shot glass) of sunscreen when covering the body. Don’t forget the often-neglected parts of the body like your ears, hands and feet. Lips can get burned too — use a lip balm or lipstick with an SPF of at least 30.

Reapply sunscreen every two hours. When it comes to sunscreen, many people apply once and forget about it for the rest of the day. Sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours for a regular day in the sun or right away if you’ve been swimming or sweating a lot.

By being sun-smart, you can help reduce your risk of sunburn and UV damage. When in doubt, reapply, seek shade, or take a break from the sun and get indoors. Once you’re covered in sunscreen, don’t forget to have fun!

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