Despite the overwhelming body of research that proves just how dangerous too much sun exposure can be, far too many of us aren’t wearing sunscreen daily, increasing our risk for sunburn and several types of skin cancer … all of which is largely preventable if you’re properly protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful rays.
Whether you’re enjoying the summertime sun or simply sitting in the car for long periods of time, you absolutely need to wear sunscreen every day, no matter what the weather forecast predicts.
Your skin is at risk even on cloudy, cool, and windy days, so the easiest and most foolproof way to lessen your risk of skin cancer is by wearing sunscreen. But just because you’re slapping some SPF on doesn’t mean you automatically get a gold star and a pat on the back.
From not using a high enough SPF to enjoying margaritas poolside, you’re likely doing some things that are inadvertently making your sunscreen less effective, which can lead to dangerous sun exposure you didn’t even realize you’ve been getting.
Here are the 12 most unexpected things that could be making your sunscreen less effective and how to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to keeping your skin safe and healthy.
You’re not using it every single day.
You need to wear sunscreen every single day, in every single season, no matter what the weather forecast says or if you’re not spending the day outside. The sun emits two types of ultraviolet (UV) radiation which cause genetic mutations and damage to DNA, leading to skin cancer. But you’re exposed to these UV rays every time you step outside, even when it’s cloudy, cold, or windy out.
Sun damage can happen in any weather condition, which is why skiers wear goggles to protect their eyes from snow blindness, because fresh snow is also a powerful source of UV radiation.
Because it can pass through even the thickest of clouds and through your car or office windows, the only surefire way to protect your skin is by wearing sunscreen every single day, even when you’re miles from the nearest beach.
You’re not applying enough sunscreen.
So you’ve heeded our advice and wear sunscreen every day. It’s a great start, but you must ask yourself if you’re applying enough.
There’s no such thing as too much sunscreen, so you’ll want to be very generous in your application … especially if you are planning any outdoor activities.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using about an ounce of sunscreen (the size of a standard shot glass) for your body, liberally covering all exposed skin. Experts recommend a quarter-size amount for your face, though this all depends on your body size. The more, the merrier, when it comes to sun protection, so when in doubt, add more.
You apply it, but never reapply.
OK, so you put sunscreen on, thinking you’re done for the day and your skin is protected. Wrong, say dermatologists, who recommend reapplying at least every two hours if you’re in direct sunlight, and more often if you’re swimming, sweating, or toweling off.
There is no such thing as waterproof sunscreen, only water-resistant, so even sunscreens with the highest SPFs need to be applied routinely in order to maximize effectiveness.
“If you’re in the sun, your sunscreen is good for a max of two hours, and depending on the sunscreen it might not even last that long,” explained Lisa Garner, a Texas-based dermatologist, who told HuffPost that when our skin absorbs our sunscreen, it “uses up” the active ingredients that are protecting skin from the sun’s harmful rays.
This happens even faster when you’re swimming or sweating, so be sure to constantly reapply, giving skin enough time to absorb before you head back into the water.
As for days when you’re mostly inside at home or at work or aren’t enjoying any outdoor activities, you should still touch up, choosing a cosmetic-based powder or mineral sunscreens, or moisturizers and lotions that have a solid amount of SPF in them, before you see any sun exposure.
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