26 Jun Sunscreen Best Practices
The FDA recommends using sunscreen that is broad spectrum—meaning it protects against both UVA and UVB rays—with an SPF of at least 15 or higher every day. This is true even on cold, cloudy days. (That’s because) the sun’s UV rays can penetrate clouds, so unless you’re in a completely shaded area, applying sunscreen is always smart. Remember to:
- Apply sunscreen generously wherever skin isn’t covered, especially your nose, ears, neck, hands, feet and lips.
- If you’re bald or have an exposed scalp, apply sunscreen to the top of your head or wear a hat.
- Wear protective clothing and sunglasses, since no sunscreen blocks all UV radiation.
- Reapply at least every two hours—more often if you’re sweating or swimming.
- Wait 15 to 20 minutes after applying sunscreen before going outside.
Understanding Sunscreen Labels
All sunscreens protect you from the sun’s rays, but only broad spectrum sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher have been proven to reduce the risk of skin cancer and skin aging. Additionally, only formulas that pass the FDA’s broad spectrum requirements can be labeled “broad spectrum.” In fact, sunscreens that aren’t broad spectrum or don’t have an SPF of at least 15 must carry this 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.”
Sunscreens also can’t claim to be waterproof, so steer clear of products with this guarantee. Labels with “water resistant” must be tested by the FDA and are required to state if the sunscreen remains effective for 40 minutes or 80 minutes while swimming or sweating. They must provide instructions on when to reapply.
Kinds of Sunscreens
There are many types of sunscreens. These include lotions, creams, sticks, gels, oils, butters, pastes, and sprays. Each has its own set of directions for applying, so it’s important to read the container before using. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD)
- Creams are best for dry skin and applying on the face.
- Gels are good for oily complexions and hairy areas, such as the scalp or male chest.
- Sticks are good to use around the eyes.
- Sprays are sometimes preferred by parents since they are easy to apply to children. However, the challenge in using sprays is that it is difficult to know if you have used enough sunscreen to cover all sun-exposed areas of the body, which may result in inadequate coverage.
Sometimes, even with the right preventive measures, sunburns happen. It’s important to treat the burn right when you notice it. The first step is to get indoors or to a completely shaded area so the burn can’t get worse. You should also:
- Apply a moisturizer with aloe vera or soy to soothe the burn
- Drink extra water
- Take cool baths or showers to help relieve pain
- Wear extra clothing outside to cover the burn
- Allow blisters to heal, if they develop. Blisters are indicative of second-degree burns and popping blisters increases your risk of infection and prolonged healing.
Following the guidance above will go a long way in helping you stay safe in the sun. There’s no reason to not enjoy the outdoor activities you love! Just remember to apply sunscreen and always remember to read the label to ensure you’re using it correctly.
For more information on sun safety best practices, visit aad.org