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The Correct Ways to Apply Sunscreen for Skin Protection

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the US and worldwide. In the United States alone, 1 in 5 people will develop skin cancer by the time they are 70 years old. This chance doubles if you have had more than 5 sunburns in your lifetime.

Sunscreen is the best defense against the development of skin cancer, when applied correctly. Unfortunately, many people incorrectly apply, or wear sunscreen, leading to premature skin aging and, increasing their risk for skin cancer. This article will offer beauty tips to help describe why sun care, including sunscreen, is vital for any skin care regime.

The Basics of Sun Care

  • What Sunscreen is and Why It is Important

Sunscreen, also known as sun block, is a type of lotion applied to the skin that is made of ingredients that will help prevent the sun’s radiation from penetrating and damaging the skin. Sunscreen is made of two categories of ingredients: physical ingredients which block and scatter the rays before they are able to penetrate your skin, and chemical ingredients which absorb the UV rays before they can damage the skin.

Sunscreen, when applied correctly, can lower your risk of developing skin cancers, squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and melanoma, by 40% and 50%, respectively. Regular sunscreen use is also vital to preventing premature aging of your skin caused by the sun. Sunscreen has natural anti-aging properties to prevent skin care blemishes like wrinkles, sunspots, and sagging skin.

  • The Difference between UVA, UVB, UVC, etc.

“UVA”, “UVB”, and “UVC” are abbreviations referring to the three specific types of ultraviolet (UV) radiation given off by the sun’s rays. UVA, UVB, and UVC are categorized by their wavelength and how easily they can penetrate the skin’s barrier to cause damage.

Ultraviolet C (UVC) radiation has the shortest wavelength and emits extremely harmful radiation levels. However, UVC radiation is completely filtered out by the Earth’s atmosphere, making it unable to reach the surface of the Earth.

Ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation is a medium-wavelength and is mostly filtered out by the atmosphere, however some UVB rays do reach Earth’s surface and can cause damage to the skin. Skin damage from UVB radiation is mostly superficial and causes delayed tanning and burning responses and can increase skin’s aging and the chance of developing skin cancer.

Ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation has the longest wavelength and accounts for approximately 95% of ultraviolet radiation that reaches the Earth’s surface. UVA radiation results in the immediate tanning of the skin and can have long-term effects such as skin wrinkling and enhancing one’s risk of developing skin cancer.

When choosing the right sunscreen for your skin, you usually want to go with sunscreens labeled “broad spectrum” because they prevent skin cancer and are anti-aging by protecting against both UVA and UVB radiation

  • “SPF” and the Degrees of Sunscreen

“SPF” stands for “Sun Protection Factor” and refers to the level of protection the sunscreen has against harmful UVB radiation. The most common SPF levels are 15, 30, and 50 and protect against 93%, 97%, and 98% of UVB rays, respectively. Generally speaking, if your skin would usually burn after 10 minutes in the sun, applying sunscreen with SPF 15 would allow you to be out in the sun for approximately 150 minutes before your skin would burn (15x the time without sunscreen).

Interestingly enough, sunscreens that boast a SPF over 50, like 75 or 100, provide little to no extra protection than SPF 50 sunscreens. SPF levels are also approximate and depend on your skin’s level of fairness, so you should not use it as a way to estimate how long your skin can be exposed to solar radiation.

Related: 11 Best Sunbathing Hacks for a Perfect Tan

Applying Sunscreen Correctly

  • The Right Way to Apply Sunscreen

Experts recommend applying one ounce, or about a shot glass full, of sunscreen all over your body before getting dressed in the morning as part of a healthy skin care regime. At the very least, you should apply sunscreen to every part of your body that is exposed to the sun, like your face and neck and, arms and legs if you are wearing short sleeves and shorts. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to the most often skipped parts of the body, like the ears, back of your knees, top of your feet, and the scalp where your hair is parted.

You will want to put the sunscreen in one hand and apply to your skin with the other hand, making sure to apply in the same direction as your hair grows, to prevent clogging your pores and causing acne or breakouts.

  • When to Wear Sunscreen and When It’s not Necessary

You should wear SPF 15 sunscreen on a daily basis for optimal anti-aging care. You should also wear sunscreen when you are exposed to the sun’s rays occasionally, like when driving a car or walking outside. If you are spending an extended amount of time outdoors, you should choose sunscreen with SPF 30 and reapply every 2 hours or after swimming or sweating.

Experts recommend applying sunscreen at least 30 minutes before being exposed to the sun’s rays to ensure the sunscreen properly binds to your skin. You should wear sunscreen every day, even if it is cloudy – up to 80% of the sun’s UV rays reach the Earth’s surface through the clouds, often leading to skin damage. Additionally, about 80% of UV radiation is reflected off of snow, making sunscreen necessary during cold, snowy, winter days.

Dermatologists also recommend wearing sunscreen indoors, like in an office or nightclub, applying it to the parts of the body not covered by clothing.

  • When It Should be Reapplied

Sunscreen should be reapplied every 2 hours, if not sooner. Generally speaking, sunscreen that is labeled as “water-resistant” looses its effectiveness after 40 minutes in water or after heavy perspiration. Sunscreen can also be rubbed off, making it essential to reapply after towel-drying after getting out of the pool.

Miscellaneous Tips

Finally, here are a few miscellaneous beauty tips in regard to sun care, skin care/anti-aging, and other general guidelines:

  • Lemon juice can be applied to the skin to help lighten the appearance of freckles. Using freshly squeezed, or natural and artificial free lemon juice, use a cotton ball to apply the juice to your skin every day. You will start to see your freckles begin to fade after a few months of continuous use.
  • You can increase your skin’s protection against skin cancer by increasing the amounts of leafy green vegetables, avocados, blueberries, nuts and seeds, and carrots, in your everyday diet.
  • If you don’t want to wear sunscreen on cooler days, you should try to keep your skin covered with long sleeves and pants to protect your skin from harmful radiation.
  • It is safe and recommended to wear 15 SPF sunscreen underneath your makeup for extra protection from the sun.

This article has shed light on what sunscreen is and why it is important and how to apply it correctly, for optimal anti-aging and skin-cancer protection. With skin cancer being the most common cancer worldwide, we need to start taking sun care seriously.

Related: How To Protect Your Eyes From the Sun: 8 Effective Hacks

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