Unfortunately, you can’t just slap on a little sunscreen and expect to be safe from sunburn.
Here’s what you need to know about using suncreen, and other ways to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays.
Sunscreen and sun protection tips
1. Plan ahead: Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before going out into the sun (or as directed by the manufacturer) to give it time to absorb into your skin.
2. Use enough: Slather sunscreen on generously and regularly — about 1 ounce every 2 hours — and more often if you are swimming or perspiring. A small tube containing between 3 and 5 ounces of sunscreen might only be enough for one person during a day at the beach.
3. Don’t miss spots: Don’t forget about lips, ears, feet, hands, bald spots and the back of the neck. In addition, apply sunscreen to areas under bathing suit straps, necklaces, bracelets and sunglasses.
4. Check the sunscreen’s expiration date. Sunscreen without an expiration date has a shelf life of no more than three years, but its shelf life will be shorter if it’s been exposed to high temperatures.
5. “Water resistant” sunscreens must maintain their SPF after 40 minutes of water immersion, while “very water resistant” sunscreens must maintain their SPF after 80 minutes of water immersion. They must be reapplied regularly, as heavy perspiration, water, and towel drying remove the sunscreen’s protective layer.
6. Sunglasses: Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays offer the best protection, and also shield the tender skin around your eyes from sun exposure. The majority of sunglasses sold in the United States meet this standard, says the CDC. Wrap-around sunglasses work best because they block UV rays from sneaking in from the side. Find out more here: When it comes to sunglasses, looks aren’t everything.
7. Face and lips: Sunscreen is now commonly found in moisturizers, makeup and other cosmetics. Check the packaging for an SPF to be sure, and wear lip balm or lipstick containing SPF 15 or more.
8. UV rays aren’t just from above: Use extra caution near water, snow and sand — all reflective surfaces that can increase your sun exposure. Even on a cloudy day, skin is still exposed to 80 percent of the sun’s rays.
9. Hats can help shield your skin from the sun’s UV rays, notes the CDC. Choose a hat that provides shade for all of your head and neck. For the most protection, wear a hat with a brim all the way around that shades your face, ears, and the back of your neck.
10. Good clothes to wear: Tightly-woven, thick garments made of denim, wool or polyester offer the best protection from the sun. Loose, dry fabrics, and clothes that have shrunk after washing — which makes them denser — are better at stopping harmful UV rays reaching the skin. There are many kinds of sun protection clothing available, too.
11. Fabrics may allow ultraviolet rays to reach your skin: Cotton, linen and acetate fabrics are much less effective at sun protection, according to research published in The Lancet. In addition, wet or stretched materials (such as swimsuits), and those that have been bleached are not as helpful, either.
12. Minimize it: To fully protect yourself, remember to seek shade, try not to be outside during peak hours (especially between the hours of 10am and 2pm, when the sun’s rays are most intense), and wear protective clothing in addition to applying sunscreen.
13. Health conditions and medications: Certain diseases, such as lupus, can also make a person more sensitive to sunburn. Some medications, such as antibiotics and antihistamines — and even certain herbal remedies — can cause extra sensitivity to the sun’s rays. Discuss these issues with your healthcare provider.
14. Bug and sun: Apply insect repellent 15 minutes after sunscreen, notes the University of Wisconsin, otherwise the chemicals in sunscreen may increase the absorption of DEET, the active ingredient in most bug sprays.