1. You Choose an SPF that’s Too Low or Doesn’t Block Both UVA & UVB Rays
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15, many wonder if they should go higher. With SPF 30 blocking 97% of rays, many say the sometimes higher priced high-SPF sunscreens are a waste of money. Some experts disagree since they can absorb more free radical producing energy. Also choose a broad-spectrum formula to ensure it blocks both UVB (sunburn causing rays) and UVA (aging & cancer causing rays)!
Just remember to reapply that SPF 100 as often as you would an SPF 30 – every 80 minutes!
2. You Don’t Protect Your Eyes
It’s not just about looking cool when it comes to your sunglasses – they are a critical tool in protecting your eyes. Many inexpensive styles don’t have a protective coating to block out UV rays. This could actually cause more damage than not wearing glasses at all, since the dark lenses actually allow your pupils to dilate, permitting even more UV rays in. Exposure to UV rays plays a big role in cataract development, so make sure your glasses block those UV rays!
3. Not Applying it EVERYWHERE
So you slather your arms, chest and face…but what about the rest of your body. Dermatologist report that some of the most prominent places for melanoma are the toes (even in between them), ears, back of the neck and behind the knees – so don’t overlook these often missed spots. Additionally, you want to be sure to get your underarms, hands (front and back), eyelids, lips (use a lip balm with SPF) and tops and bottoms of your feet – the sun doesn’t discriminate and neither should you!
4. You Apply After You Get Dressed
Speaking of missing spots – waiting until you are dressed to apply sunscreen will cause you to miss major areas. Think about it – you will gingerly apply to ensure you don’t get it on your clothes and then you are definitely missing where your clothes cover. UV rays can penetrate your clothing, your clothes shift as you move thus exposing skin to sun – its best to apply before you get dressed. This also benefits you because you should be applying 30 minutes BEFORE any sun exposure!
5. Waiting Until You Are Outside to Apply
You always want to apply your sunscreen at least 30 minutes before you are out in the sun – giving it enough time to absorb and start working. This ensures you are protected from UV exposure for those first few minutes when your skin is extremely vulnerable. This also ensure you don’t have to strip down in public (see tip #4) in order to ensure you protect all your skin.
6. You Sweat or Rinse it Off or Just Don’t Reapply
Be sure to use a water or sweat resistant formula appropriate to the activity you will be doing outside and to reapply often. Even if you are just lounging on a chair by the pool you still need to reapply every 80 minutes or so.
7. Only Using Sunscreen When it’s Sunny or Thinking You Don’t Need it if you’re Staying Indoors, in the Shade or in the Car
So it is confusing to most people that they need sunscreen when it is cloudy or cold outside, but in fact you can get UV exposure without ever seeing the sun. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, 80% of UV rays still come through on a cloudy day.
This also rings true for being indoors (near windows) or driving in the car – windows and windshield block UVB rays so you don’t see a sunburn, but UVA comes right in, and that’s the spectrum that causes most skin aging and skin cancer.
Staying under the beach umbrella or patio near a pool still means you need to apply sunscreen! Why? Both sand and water reflect damaging rays back at you like a mirror, and 34% of UV rays get past the fabric of an umbrella.
8. Not Using Enough
The recommended amount of sunscreen you should apply is about 1.5 ounces – so picture a shot glass worth of product. If you are using a spray formula, your best bet is to hold the can six inches from your skin and spray nonstop, until you can see moisture covering every part of your body, rub it in and then REPEAT!
9. Using the same formula on your face and body
Most people don’t use the same body lotion as their facial moisturizer, but think nothing of doing this with sunscreen. Face formulas have been tested to cause less irritation and not trigger breakouts. It is especially important to not use the dry-touch spray formulas, these are full of alcohol which is very drying and irritating for facial skin.
10. Using Old Bottles
While leftover bottles should not be an issue if you are using the recommended amount (see #8 again if you forgot how much) but in case you do have some laying around – throw them out! They tend to lose their effectiveness after 2 years or more.
Rule of Thumb:
Use lots of sunscreen every day and reapply often. At the very minimum, start using a daily moisturizer & body lotion that include SPF to protect against UV exposure.