While sunscreen should be part of your beauty routine year-round, as the weather gets warmer and the days get longer, you’ll hear more and more about the importance of sunscreen to avoid sunburn, and to protect your skin from cancer and premature aging. Using sun protection is important; using it properly is even more important.
When should I apply?
Slathering sunscreen on while sitting on the beach or at the pool is not the best idea (unless you’re re-applying). Sunscreen should be applied to dry skin 15 minutes prior to sun exposure. So if you find yourself at the pool before you’ve applied sunscreen, it’s not a bad idea to find a shady spot to apply your sun protection, and hang out there for a while to make sure you’re fully protected once you’re out in the sun.
Do I need to wear sunscreen when it’s not sunny?
Short answer: yes. Longer answer: Yes, because the sun is emitting harmful UV rays all year round, and those harmful rays can still reach you through the clouds. Just be safe and protect your skin.
Beware the “base tan” myth
Many people believe that, if they are already tan, they are protected from sunburn and the other harmful effects of the sun. This is false. A tan itself is evidence of skin that’s been damaged by the sun. Of course, if you’re spending a lot of time outdoors in the sun, you’re likely to end up with a tan – even if you’re using sunscreen. To completely avoid tanning your skin, you would need to cover up in clothing with UV protection, or stay out of the sun completely.
But studies have shown that a “base tan” only provides an SPF factor of 2 or 3 – meaning that if you’d normally burn in 10 minutes without protection, you may be able to be in the sun 20-30 minutes without burning. A base tan from a tanning bed offers even less “protection.” Bottom line: even if you’re already tan, you can get a sunburn, and you can certainly do serious damage to your skin. Always, always, always wear sunscreen.
Where do I need to apply sunscreen?
This seems like a common-sense question, but almost everyone has burned the tops of their feet (or even the bottoms!) or their scalp at one time or another. When applying sunscreen, always start with your face – as it’s almost always exposed to the sun – and don’t forget your lips. Then think about each part of your body that won’t be covered by protective clothing (keeping in mind that loose weaves, and other types of clothing can be penetrated by harmful UV rays). If you’re not wearing a hat, you do need to protect your scalp – especially if you have thin hair or a pronounced part. Work your way down, making sure to protect your ears and any other area that will be exposed to the sun.
How do I apply sunscreen?
Most people make two critical mistakes when applying sunscreen: Not applying enough, and applying it incorrectly.
To make sure you’re properly protected, you should use approximately one ounce of sunscreen (the popular estimate is “enough to fill a shotglass.”) Of course, you may need a little less for a small child, or more for a larger adult. Just don’t skimp!
Something that gets overlooked is when to apply sunscreen in terms of your regular skin care routine. Many people apply sunscreen under their moisturizers or other treatments. Because moisturizers are meant to penetrate the skin (in order to be effective), they should be applied under sunscreen (meant to sit on the skin to offer protection from the sun’s harmful rays).
Sunscreen should be the last thing you apply, unless you’re wearing makeup. If you wear makeup, it should go on after your sunscreen. For extra protection, you can choose a foundation that includes SPF protection.
Because you’ll need to reapply your sunscreen throughout the day, you’ll want to avoid using powder makeup with a cream sunscreen; or creamy makeup with a powder sunscreen. Finding a foundation that offers sun protection will go a long way toward making the reapplication process smoother.
How often do I need to reapply?
You should reapply your sunscreen every two hours; more frequently if you are sweating or have been in the pool/water.
The importance of sun protection can not be overstated. Not only can a sunburn be extremely painful, but even minimal sun exposure can cause premature skin aging/damage, or even skin cancer. Look for sun protection that suits your skin type and lifestyle, and make it a habit to apply every day!