If you’re going to be out during this Memorial Day weekend you’re going to want to wear sunscreen. According to the University of Texas MD Anderson Center there are ways to better protect your skin from harmful sun rays.
You know you need sunscreen. But with so many lotions, sprays and gels to choose from, how do you know which sunblock will actually prevent sunburns — and skin cancer?
When it comes to shielding your skin from the sun, the type of sunscreen you choose is as important as how you use it.
“Many people blame their sunscreen when they get sunburned,” says Susan Y. Chon, M.D., assistant professor in MD Anderson’s Department of Dermatology. “But the problem usually isn’t the sunscreen. It’s that the user isn’t reading the label and applying the sunscreen properly.”
Before heading outdoors, follow these tips to maximize your sunscreen’s protection.
1. Get UVA and UVB protection
Always opt for a sunscreen that provides both UVA and UVB protection. This way, you’ll protect your skin from ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays, which cause sunburns and skin damage, as well as ultraviolet-A (UVA) rays that increase your risk for skin cancer.
Also make sure the sunscreen you choose contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These ingredients help to block both UVA and UVB rays.
2. Choose SPF 30 or higher
Always use a sunscreen with SPF (Sun Protection Factor) 30 or higher. The SPF in your sunscreen absorbs and reflects the sun’s rays so they don’t burn or damage your skin.
Keep in mind, though, that higher isn’t that much better when it comes to SPF numbers. “Many people think they can safely stay in the sun longer if they choose a higher SPF,” Chon says. “But that isn’t the case.”
Here’s why: SPF protection doesn’t increase proportionately with the designated SPF number. So while SPF 30 absorbs 97% of the sun’s burning rays, SPF 50 absorbs just slightly more — 98%.
“If you choose an SPF higher than 30, you should still treat it as though you’re using SPF 30,” Chon says. “That means you should apply just as much sunscreen — and just as often — as you would if you were using SPF 30.”
Most people don’t apply enough sunscreen.For sunscreen to do its job effectively, you should apply 1 ounce of sunscreen — the size of a golf ball — to every part of your body exposed to the sun.
3. Apply sunscreen early — and liberally
Your skin can take up to a half-hour to absorb sunscreen. So, plan ahead and apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside.
And, don’t skimp on the sunscreen. “Most people don’t apply enough sunscreen,” Chon says. “For sunscreen to do its job effectively, you should apply 1 ounce of sunscreen — the size of a golf ball — to every part of your body exposed to the sun.” That includes your ears, feet and back of the neck.
4. Reapply sunscreen every two hours
Forget all-day protection. Sunscreen wears off after just a couple of hours. So, make sure you lather on another golf ball-sized amount every two hours.
In some cases, you should reapply sunscreen every 60 to 90 minutes. Do this if you’re:
- Using a spray sunscreen. It needs to be reapplied more often because it washes off more easily.
- Swimming or sweating. Water, snow and sand can intensify the sun’s rays and cause a greater burn