Before Heading Out Into the Summer Sun, Protect Your Skin With the Right Kind of Sunscreen
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Before Heading Out Into the Summer Sun, Protect Your Skin With the Right Kind of Sunscreen

Using sunscreen is critical to protecting your skin in the summer sun, so choosing the right sunscreen product to use is key

July 6, 2020

We all know that sunscreen helps to protect against skin cancer. But did you know that some sunscreens protect against only the sun's ultraviolet B (UVB) rays and not its ultraviolet A (UVA) rays? Did you also know that sunscreen doesn't block all UV radiation and isn't truly waterproof? Before you head into the summer sun, make sure you know how to protect your skin from the sun's harmful rays.

Sunscreen Labels

Using sunscreen is critical to protecting your skin in the sun, so choosing the right product to use is key. Carefully reading the label is absolutely essential to know what's in the sunscreen, how much UV radiation it blocks, and how long it lasts before you should apply more.

Broad Spectrum

One of the most important of the requirements of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is product testing that verifies and labeling that identifies sunscreens that are "broad spectrum," meaning they offer protection against both UVB and UVA rays. All sunscreen products offer protection against UVB rays, which are the primary cause of sunburn. But UVA rays also contribute to sun-induced skin cancer and premature skin aging, not just UVB rays.

Under FDA regulations, sunscreen products that pass a broad spectrum test can be labeled "broad spectrum" on the front of the product. Sunscreens that are not broad spectrum or that lack a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 must carry the following warning: "Skin Cancer/Skin Aging Alert: Spending time in the sun increases your risk of skin cancer and early skin aging. This product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging."

Water Resistant labeling

FDA regulations also require that if a product's front label makes claims of being water resistant, it must designate whether it's protective for 40 or for 80 minutes while swimming or sweating. Additionally, manufacturers can no longer make claims that their sunscreens are "waterproof" or "sweatproof." And no sunscreen product can be identified as a "sunblock," as instant protection from the sun, or as offering protection for more than two hours without reapplying.

Important Sun Safety Tips

  • Apply sunscreen to all exposed skin areas at least 15 minutes before sun exposure. Use a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. If you don't have much hair, make sure you apply sunscreen to the top of your head or wear a hat.
  • Although people with pale skin and light hair are most vulnerable, people of every skin tone are susceptible to sunburn and skin cancer.
  • Keep infants under six months of age out of the sun. Avoid putting sunscreen on them.
  • No sunscreen stops all UV rays.
  • Limit sun exposure, particularly between 10 a.m. and 2 pm. when the sun's rays are strongest.
  • Maintain caution on overcast days because up to 80 percent of the sun's UV rays can still get through the clouds.
  • A variety of factors cause different amounts of UV radiation to reach different parts of the Earth at any given time. You can find the strength of solar UV radiation on a given day in a particular zip code with the UV Index report issued daily by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Weather Service.
  • Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours and more often if you are swimming or sweating.
  • Wear clothes that protect your body. If you plan on being outside on a sunny day, cover as much of your body as possible.
  • Stay in the shade as much as possible throughout the day.

Don't Forget to Apply Sunscreen in these places

  1. Scalp
  2. Are you bald or balding? Do you shave your head or cut your head very short? You should be protecting your head with sunscreen and maybe even a hat. But even if none of these apply to you, you should apply sunscreen at any parts in your hair since they expose the underlying skin.

  3. Eyelids and the Space Between the Eyes
  4. Certain types of skin cancer develops in the areas around the eyes. If you don't want to run the risk of getting sunscreen in your eyes, make sure to wear a hat with a brim and sunglasses with lenses that block UV rays.

  5. Ears
  6. Cancers can frequently form on and around the ears. Don't forget to apply sunscreen here!

  7. Lips
  8. Lips can be a place at high risk of developing cancer, including those types that have the highest chance of spreading and reoccurring. Consider applying a lip balm with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30, which blocks about 97 percent of UVB radiation as opposed to SPF 15 which only blocks 93 percent of UVB radiation.

  9. Neck
  10. It can be easy to forget the sides and front of the neck when you're putting on sunscreen. Make sure you remember these spots!

  11. Hands
  12. Many people wash their hands after applying sunscreen, but doing so leaves your hands exposed. If you need to wash your hands after applying sunscreen, don't forget to reapply enough sunscreen to protect your hands.

  13. Feet
  14. The tops of the feet burn quite easily and many people miss this place. When your feet are exposed, apply sunscreen to help protect them.