Recently, I wrote about the benefits of spending a few minutes in the sun. However, if you are outdoors for more than twenty minutes, you need sunscreen — probably a greater amount than you think.
Most people either do not apply enough sunscreen or do not reapply as often as they should. If you have sunscreen left over from last summer, you’re most likely one of those people. You should use up bottles fairly quickly if you’re putting on enough to adequately guard against skin cancer.
Before going outside, apply sunscreen to your entire body, not just the areas that won’t be covered by clothes. T-shirts have an average sun protection factor (SPF) of about 7, which is not enough protection from the sun’s UV rays, according to dermatologists. Before you get dressed apply sunscreen from head to toe including your ears, face, back and those places that are easily forgotten like the back of your knees.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you use 1-2 ounces of sunscreen to cover your body (that’s enough to fill your cupped palm). Apply it thickly, thoroughly and evenly.
If you are going to be outside for a length of time, reapply sunscreen at least every two hours. Also, reapply sunscreen after swimming or hourly if you are sweating heavily. Even sunscreens that claim to be waterproof or water-resistant need to be reapplied as sweat and water still wash away a significant amount of the components needed to protect your skin.
Be sure to choose a sunscreen that protects against UV-A and UV-B rays. Many groups, including the American Academy of Dermatology, recommend products with an SPF of at least 30. Most bottles only contain enough sunscreen for a few applications, so you should seldom end up with expired product. However, do pay attention to expiration dates and toss any old bottles because sunscreen starts to lose its effectiveness after about two years.
No matter what the weather, always apply sunscreen if you are going to be outdoors. You are exposed to UV rays during the day even if it is cloudy or raining.
To learn more about sunscreen including dermatologists’ recommendations, read Sunscreen: Are You Really Covered? from WebMD.
Dr. Jeff Pinkerton
iCare for you.