It’s time to make healthy skin a priority.. and to avoid sun protection mistakes: sunburn, basking in the sun to get tanned, relying only on sunscreen to protect you from the dangerous sun rays.
By now, you probably know too that you should use sunscreen both to reduce the risk of skin cancer and to prevent premature aging aka wrinkles, dark spots and other things you don’t want on your beautiful face and body.
But did you know that you should use sunscreen daily?
Unfortunately, you’re probably making at least one more of these common 9 sunscreen mistakes.
1. Not applying on time
What’s the first thing people do at the beach? Take their clothes off. Second? Apply sunscreen.
It’s time to get the priorities straight.
Your skin is exposed to sun rays long before you arrive at the beach. That’s why you need to apply your sunscreen BEFORE you put your bathing suit on. Yeap, your bathing suit.
Do it right: Apply sunscreen on dry skin at least 15 minutes, 30 is best, before sun exposure.
2. Not using enough sunscreen
Sunscreen users often apply only a quarter of the recommended amount of sunscreen. This leads to a gap between the theoretical sun-protection factor (SPF) and the actual protection a sunscreen provides. Which means that the sunscreen is not protecting you optimally and it’s not the manufacturer’s fault!
Do it right: Apply liberally! A LOT. The amount of sunscreen in a shot glass should be slathered on 15-30 minutes before exposure, then reapply regularly. The good amount sunscreen for your face is about a teaspoon each time.
3. Using last year’s bottle
Sunscreens lose their effectiveness over time and the heat they have been exposed to helps them deteriorate.
If you’re applying enough sunscreen though then bottle leftovers shouldn’t be an issue.
Do it right: If you come across a sunscreen bottle lingering in your cabinet for a year or more, toss it.
4. Using sunscreen only when you’re going in the sun
Being indoors, in the car, or in the shade give us a feeling of being safe from the sun. And who the heck applies sunscreen on a cloudy, gray day?!
Some 80% of the UV rays still come through on cloudy days.
Sand and water reflect the sun rays and 34% of them get through a beach umbrella.
The UVA rays get through windows and windshields to and that’s the spectrum which causes the most skin cancer.
Do it right: Apply sunscreen every morning. Remember if you’re not getting sunburnt, it doesn’t mean you’re not getting sun exposure.
5. Using the wrong sunscreen – SPF and broad-spectrum
Most people go for products with too high or too low SPF.
Oils, or any other product as a matter of fact, with SPF 6 are considered sunscreens but they don’t provide enough protection. Products with SPF lower than 15 block only a portion of the sun rays, allowing sun damage.
Choosing a high SPF, like 50, makes people believe that they’ll be protected for hours. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. SPF 30 blocks 90-97% of the UV rays, while SPF 50 blocks 98%. That’s a very small difference which gives a false sense of security and leads us to not reapplying often enough. So instead of using a sunscreen with SPF 50 the whole day, we are actually often unprotected.
Do it right: Use sunscreen which offers broad-spectrum protection (i.e. against UVA and UVB rays). The SPF should be at least 15 for daily use and if you will be actively in the sun, like going to the beach, skiing or playing golf, SPF 30 is what you need. Same criteria, broad-spectrum and SPF minimum 15, apply to any other product you use offering you sun protection – moisturizer, make-up, creams, etc.
6. “Black don’t crack” or believing that your dark skin is protecting you
Most brown-skinned people believe that they are naturally protected from the sun with the added benefit of getting less wrinkles and look at least a few years younger as they age.
While it is definitely true that people with darker skin are less likely to burn, they are not immune to skin cancer and sun damage.
Many white people who get tanned also don’t use sunscreen as they believe that their suntan is protecting them from the sun. Suntan gives some protection (SPF 4) but you still can burn.. and if you already have a tan from the sun, it means your skin is damaged.
Do it right: Use sun protection, regardless of the color of your skin and do NOT be STINGY on the sunscreen.
7. Not applying often enough
Most people believe that applying sunscreen once in the morning will see them through the day. Truth is that any sunscreen wears off from swimming or sweating (remember, we all sweat, just often not visibly).
Sunscreens work not longer than two hours in ideal conditions, provided that you have applied it really well.
Do it right: If you’re outside you need to reapply every two hours or every time you take a swim (or sweat a lot).
8. Forgetting areas
Body slathered – check.
Face – check.
People often apply around their clothing which leaves a chance for missing a lot of spots. (Unless you have glued your bathing suit on your body and it NEVER moves around).
Often forgotten spots to protect are lips, ears, back of the neck, scalp, toes, underarms, bottoms of feet and eyelids.
Do it right: Apply sunscreen also under your straps and go get yourself a lip balm with broad-spectrum sun protection. Oh yes, don’t forget a baseball cap or a wide-brimmed hat and a pair of shades. They are not fashion accessories only.
9. Using body formula sunscreen on your face
There is a difference in the formula of sunscreens intended for the body and those for the face, as the facial skin is more sensitive. Using body formula sunscreen on your face could cause irritation or break-outs.
Just like you don’t put body lotion on your face.
Do it right: Choose products which are delicate enough for your face and safe enough to wear near your eyes.
Now that you know everything about sun protection and the mistakes you need to avoid when it comes to sunscreen, go out and enjoy the sun.
Don’t avoid sun altogether. Your body needs it. Just be sensible.
I love the slogan of the Environmental Working Groups campaign on educating people on enjoying the sunshine while keeping yourself and your family safe – Practice Smart Sun.
Lots of sunny smiles,